Malaria can be halted by contaminating mosquitoes using genetically engineered mosquito bug, found researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. The genetically engineered mosquito bug destroys the parasite that is present in insects’ gut and causes the disease.
Malaria is one of the most extensive and dangerous insect-transmitted human disease all over the world. Malaria infects more than five million people, about one in twelve humans. The disease causes between one and two million deaths each year. Malaria parasite is mostly found in large areas of Central and South America, Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
The bug known as Pantoea agglomerans was modified to emit proteins that were toxic to malaria parasite P. falciparum, but were not harmful to mosquitoes or human beings. New bacteria virtually annihilated the malaria parasite in the insects. P agglomerans is found in the midguts of Anopheles gambiae, the most crucial malaria carrying mosquito species in Africa.
The engineered P. agglomerans strain inhibited development of the deadliest human malaria parasite P. falciparum and rodent malaria parasite P. berghei by up to ninety-eight percent within the mosquito. After the insects were infected with the bacteria by feeding them with cotton pads soaked in sugar, the proportion carrying parasites decreased by up to eighty-four percent.
Lead author Prof Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, explained in the past they worked to genetically modify the mosquito to resist malaria, but genetic modification of bacteria is a simpler approach. The ultimate goal is to completely prevent the mosquito from spreading the malaria parasite to people.
They exhibit the use of an engineered symbiotic bacterium to interfere with the development of P. falciparum in the mosquito. These findings provide the foundation for the use of genetically modified symbiotic bacteria as a powerful tool to combat malaria, added Prof Jacobs-Lorena. The study findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.