BIO/MED: Genengineered Mosquito Points to Anti-Malaria Weapon

Date: Sat Jun 24 2000 - 15:13:07 MDT

What a great breakthrough in genengineering PR it would be if this line of
research would prove fruitful against malaria!

 -- GB

>From Reuters,
Wednesday June 21 7:57 PM ET

GM Mosquito Could Help Eliminate Malaria - Scientists
By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - European scientists have created the world's first
genetically modified malaria mosquito that could one day help to rid the
world of the disease that kills an estimated 2.7 million people each year.

By inserting a marker gene into the species of mosquito that carries
malaria, researchers at Imperial College London and the European Molecular
Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany have come a step closer to
creating a mosquito to stop the spread of the disease.

``With what we have available it is theoretically possible to construct in
the laboratory a mosquito which is resistant to malaria,'' Dr Andrea
Crisanti, of Imperial College, told Reuters.

The scientists inserted an extra gene that produces a green fluorescent
protein which distinguishes the transgenic insect from other mosquitoes and
makes it visible under ultraviolet light.

The achievement means scientists may soon be able to substitute other genes
that could make the malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquito produce antibodies
to the malaria parasite or a resistance to it.

They may also be able to change the mosquito's behavior so it feeds on
animals instead of humans.

``We think that within six years a mosquito will be created that is stable,
safe and physically unable to transmit the malaria-causing parasite,''
Crisanti, a molecular entomologist added.

Major Breakthrough

The research reported in the science journal Nature has been hailed as a
breakthrough in the battle against malaria which infects up to 500 million
people a year.

``The announcement of stable germ line transformation of Anopheles
mosquitoes represents a major breakthrough in the file of molecular
entomology,'' Dr Carlos Morel, a tropical disease specialist with the WHO
and World Bank, said in a statement.

``The transformed green mosquitoes now signal a green light for more serious
investment in the development of new approaches for malaria control,'' he

Most cases of malaria are caused by a parasite that is transmitted to humans
by the female mosquito. The parasites enter the bloodstream and travel to
the liver where they replicate by the thousands.

The disease, which causes fever, muscle stiffness and shaking and sweating,
is increasing because the parasite has developed a resistance to
anti-malarial drugs.

Scientists have had difficulty in creating transgenic malaria mosquitoes
because the mosquito egg hardens quickly, making it difficult to inject the
new gene into it.

``In order to circumvent this problem we tested a series of compounds for
their ability to slow down the process. One compound proved very effective
and allowed us to inject the embryos while they were still soft,'' Crisanti

Crisanti and his colleagues believe transferring a gene that confers
resistance to the parasite will be the winning strategy.

``What we want to do is spread the resistant gene through the transgenic
mosquito,'' he added.

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