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

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' 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.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs