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At last, the good mosquito

Researchers in Japan report that they have found a genetic engineering approach that will transform mosquitoes from disease transmitters into disease vaccinators, thus opening up ways to control mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria.

02 May 2010

Researchers at the Jichi Medical University in Japan report that they have found a genetic engineering approach that will transform mosquitoes from disease transmitters into disease vaccinators, thus opening up ways to control mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, which kills between one and two million people a year.

In Insect Molecular Biology, Drs D Yamamoto, H Nagumo and S Yoshida described research on the salivary gland of the Anopheles stephensi mosquito (the main malaria vector) that generated a transgenic mosquito expressing the Leishmania vaccine in its saliva.

They said that bites from the transgenic mosquito succeeded in raising antibodies, indicating successful immunisation with the vaccine through blood feeding.

The prospect that such genetic engineering could produce this result has been bandied around for at least the past decade.

Research leader Prof Shigeto Yoshida said that the result showed that protective immune responses could be produced but with no pain and no cost. Moreover, continuous exposure to bites would maintain high levels of immunity, through natural boosting, for a lifetime.


Published: 02 May 2010