Genetic Modification Of Mosquito’s Immune System Can Combat Malaria

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Malaria, a plasmodium-caused disease transmitted through mosquitoes, has always presented a problem globally. Around 550,000 deaths were associated with malaria in 2010. Current measures have already been instituted to fight this disease like use of mosquito nets and replants, as well as prophylactic anti-malarial drugs. However, this still presents a compelling situation in the context of health care worldwide since there are many places where malaria is endemic. Studies are continuously conducted to respond to this.

The research team from Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute performed a genetic engineering on the Anopheles mosquito’s innate immune system, in order to obstruct the possible transmission of malaria-causing protozoan to humans. Furthermore, it was shown that genetic engineering had restricted effect on the mosquito’s health in laboratory settings. These findings were published in the Open Access journal PLoS Pathogens on December 22.

Dimopoulos and his colleagues genetically modified Anopheles mosquitoes so that, when they feed on blood, there would be an increase beyond normal levels of Rel2, an immune system protein. This protein battles the malaria parasite in the mosquito through initiating an immune attack that entails diverse anti-parasitic molecules. Utilizing this strategy, the study team used the insect’s own genes in increasing its parasite-resisting capacities, instead of placing a new gene into the DNA of the mosquito.

Furthermore, the researchers articulated that this form of genetically engineered mosquito can be improved and can be utilized in changing the malaria-transmitting mosquito to a Plasmodium-resistant one. The fitness of genetically engineered malaria-resistant mosquitoes is one of the foreseen problems about this strategy, because competing with the original non-modified wild kind of mosquitoes would be necessary. Moreover, in this investigation, the researchers illustrated that the genetically engineered mosquito strain and the non-modified ones have quite similar length of life and eggs produced. This can further mean that remarkable impairment was not present in the fitness of the mosquitoes.

Dimopoulos elaborated that malaria is among the most compelling public health concerns across the globe. More resistance to insecticides and medications is noted on mosquitoes and malaria parasites nowadays. There is a sense of urgency to develop new effective control measures.  He further added that this study may already provide a great promise, with the discovery of genetically modified mosquito strains that can contribute in minimizing transmission of malaria. However, additional researches are still imperative in order to ensure the safety and effectiveness of this strategy.




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