News / Health

Malaria Fix May Rely on Engineered Bacteria

Genetically engineered bacteria glow fluorescent green inside mosquito. (Credit: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)Genetically engineered bacteria glow fluorescent green inside mosquito. (Credit: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)
x
Genetically engineered bacteria glow fluorescent green inside mosquito. (Credit: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)
Genetically engineered bacteria glow fluorescent green inside mosquito. (Credit: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)
In the battle against malaria, doctors may one day have a microscopic ally.

New research suggests that genetically modifying a bacterium commonly found in the gut of mosquitoes that harbor the malaria-causing parasite can make the mosquitos less likely to carry the disease.

If scientists can find a way to spread these bacteria in the wild, they could help end malaria’s deadly reign in the tropics
 
Malaria kills approximately one million people every year, mostly African children under the age of 5. 
 
Molecular biologist Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, said, "It’s a very serious problem. It’s one of the three deadliest infectious diseases." 
 
And, he said, it’s one that is very hard to control.
 
"We have just drugs that kill the parasite in humans and we have insecticides that kill the mosquito vector. And the parasite rather quickly acquires resistance to drugs and the mosquitoes are acquiring resistance to insecticides. So the situation doesn’t get better," he said. 
 
Jacobs-Lorena is part of a team at Johns Hopkins and Duquesne Universities that is exploring an entirely new way to fight malaria. He says the key to success is choosing the right battleground. In this case, that battleground is inside the mosquito.
 
"Typically a mosquito ingests a couple thousand parasites. Then the parasite changes into a form called “ookinetes” that has to cross the midgut. Of the couple of thousand parasites that were ingested, only a few - about 5 or so-reach that stage where they cross the midgut. As you see, there’s a very strong bottleneck of parasite numbers in the midgut. That’s why it’s such a good target," he said. 
 
To take aim at the malaria parasites, Jacobs-Lorena and his colleagues gave weapons, of a sort, to bacteria that often live in a mosquito’s digestive system.
 
"So what we did is genetically engineer the bacteria to produce several antimalarial compounds, (and we) fed them to the mosquitoes," he said. 
 
When the newly-armed bacteria reached the mosquitoes’ midguts, they thrived. And Jacobs-Lorena says that they excelled in their new role as anti-parasite fighters.  "In the laboratory, it works extremely well. Up to 98% of the parasites killed. So it is quite efficient," he said. 
 
Jacobs-Lorena says it’s unlikely the malaria parasite will learn to fight back. "Rather than using one antimalarial compound, we engineered the bacteria with several different antimalarials, with each antimalarial acting at a different point in the development of the parasite in the midgut. By having multiple points of attack, that makes it much more difficult for the parasite to develop resistance," he said. 
 
The team’s next hurdle is making sure mosquitoes can pass on “armed” bacteria to their offspring. 
 
"We are changing to another bacteria that is also found in mosquitoes all over the world. It has the interesting property of being able to populate the ovaries of the mosquito. Every time the mother lays an egg, the egg is covered by this bacteria. So it goes into the water with the egg. And when the larva hatches, it ingests that bacterium. So it goes from the mother to progeny. In that way it can spread itself in nature," said Jacobs-Lorena. 
 
But even if the team can engineer inheritable armed bacteria, they face a larger challenge: public opinion.
 
"I can understand very well the concerns of lay people of having genetically engineered organisms released. My personal view is that those concerns are mostly based on the fear of the unknown rather than actual dangers. The antimalarial compounds I referred to are extremely specific. They don’t act, or do any harm to the mosquito. They don’t do any harm to mammalian cells or human cells. They don’t even affect the other bacteria that live in the same community. And in the long run, if the benefits largely outweigh any possible risks, then I think we should go ahead. And here, I think the benefit is saving lives," he said. 
 
Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena’s study is published this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
 

You May Like

Photogallery Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: yan from: china
July 19, 2012 9:45 PM
maybe,it is a better way to fight against malaria.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid