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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More