July 17, 2012
Can Genetics Prevent The Transmission Of Malaria?
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Malaria kills more than 800,000 people worldwide every year and many of those victims are children.Researchers are now reporting that they have genetically modified a bacterium commonly found in the mosquitos mid gut and found that the parasite that causes malaria in people does not survive in mosquitoes carrying the modified bacterium.
The researchers, from the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, modified the bacterium Pantoea agglomerans to secrete proteins toxic to the malaria parasite, but the toxins do not harm the mosquito or humans.
According to their study, published in PNAS, the modified bacterium was 98 percent effective in reducing the malaria parasite load in mosquitoes.
"In the past, we worked to genetically modify the mosquito to resist malaria, but genetic modification of bacteria is a simpler approach," said Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, PhD, senior author of the study and a professor with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "The ultimate goal is to completely prevent the mosquito from spreading the malaria parasite to people."
During the study, Jacobs-Lorena and his colleagues found that the engineered P. agglomerans strains repressed development of the deadliest human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum and rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei by up to approximately 98 percent within the mosquito. The number of mosquitoes carrying parasites decreased by up to 84 percent.
"We demonstrate 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," said Jacobs-Lorena.