Malaria researchers identify new mosquito virus

Aug 22, 2008
Anopheles gambiae mosquito infected with GFP-expressing AgDNV. Credit: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Malaria Research Institute have identified a previously unknown virus that is infectious to Anopheles gambiae—the mosquito primarily responsible for transmitting malaria. According to the researchers, the discovered virus could one day be used to pass on new genetic information to An. gambiae mosquitoes as part of a strategy to control malaria, which kills over one million people worldwide each year. The study was published August 22 online in the peer-reviewed open access journal PLoS Pathogens.

The virus, AgDNV, is a densonucleosis virus or "densovirus," which are common to mosquitoes and other insects, but do not infect vertebrate animals such as humans. Although the virus does not appear to harm the mosquitoes, the researchers determined it is highly infectious to mosquito larvae and is easily passed on to the adults.

According to Jason Rasgon, PhD, senior author of the study, the discovery came about serendipitously while the research team was conducting experiments to determine whether Wolbachia bacteria could be used to infect An. gambiae mosquito cells. During the analysis, Xiaoxia Ren, a postdoctoral fellow with Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, noticed an "artifact," that appeared as a prominent band in the gel used to detect the bacteria.

"Finding artifacts such as this one during experiments is not uncommon, but we decided to investigate this one further since we kept observing it over and over. When we sequenced it we were surprised to learn that we had found a new virus," explained Rasgon, an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School's W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology.

According to Rasgon, the virus could be potentially altered to kill the mosquito or make An. gambiae incapable of transmitting malaria. To test the concept, the research team successfully used altered AgDNV to express harmless green fluorescent protein in the adult mosquitoes which could be easily spotted under the microscope.

"In theory, we could use this virus to produce a lethal toxin in the mosquito or instruct the mosquito to die after 10 days, which is before it can transmit the malaria parasite to humans. However, these concepts are many years away," said Rasgon.

Source: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Explore further: Big strides made in fighting TB, says WHO

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Google profit dips to $2.8 bn

3 hours ago

Google said Thursday its profit in the past quarter dipped slightly from a year earlier, even as revenues for the technology giant showed a sharp increase.

Shrinking resource margins in Sahel region of Africa

4 hours ago

The need for food, animal feed and fuel in the Sahel belt is growing year on year, but supply is not increasing at the same rate. New figures from 22 countries indicate falling availability of resources per ...

Recommended for you

Where Ebola battles are won

30 minutes ago

(HealthDay)—Four hospitals that are home to advanced biocontainment facilities have become America's ground zero in the treatment of Ebola patients.

Depression tied to worse lumbar spine surgery outcomes

3 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Depressive symptoms are associated with poorer long-term outcome in patients undergoing surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS), according to research published in the Oct. 1 issue of The Sp ...

Ebola death toll edging to 4,900 mark: WHO

3 hours ago

The death toll in the world's worst-ever Ebola outbreak has edged closer to 4,900, while almost 10,000 people have now been infected, new figures from the World Health Organization showed Wednesday.

US to track everyone coming from Ebola nations

3 hours ago

U.S. authorities said Wednesday that everyone traveling into the U.S. from Ebola-stricken nations will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. That includes returning American aid workers, federal health employees ...

User comments : 0