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You are here: MEDICA Portal. MEDICA Magazine. Topic of the Month. Volume archives. Our Topics in 2010. May 2010: Medicine in the Future. Global Health.

Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Against Malaria

Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Against Malaria

Photo: A mosquito sitting on an arm ready to bite

The research targets the saliva gland of the Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes, the main vectors of human malaria. "Blood-sucking arthropods including mosquitoes, sand flies and ticks transmit numerous infectious agents during blood feeding," said lead researcher Shigeto Yoshida. "This includes malaria, which kills between one to two million people, mostly African children, a year. The lack of an effective vaccine means control of the carrier has become a crucial objective to combating the disease."

For the past decade it has been theorized that genetic engineering of the mosquito could create a 'flying vaccinator,' raising hopes for their use as a new strategy for malaria control. However so far research has been limited to a study of the insect's gut and, according to the researchers, the 'flying vaccinator' theory was not developed.

In this study Yoshida's team generated a transgenic mosquito expressing the Leishmania vaccine within its saliva. Bites from the insect succeeded in raising antibodies, indicating successful immunization with the Leishmania vaccine through blood feeding.

"Following bites, protective immune responses are induced, just like a conventional vaccination but with no pain and no cost," said Yoshida. "What's more continuous exposure to bites will maintain high levels of protective immunity, through natural boosting, for a life time. So the insect shifts from being a pest to being beneficial."

While the 'flying vaccinator' theory may now be scientifically possible the question of ethics hangs over the application of the research. A natural and uncontrolled method of delivering vaccines, without dealing with dosage and consent, alongside public acceptance to the release of 'vaccinating' mosquitoes, provide barriers to this method of disease control.

MEDICA.de; Source: Wiley-Blackwell

 
 

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