'Nature' report: Researchers genetically alter mosquitoes to impair malaria transmission

CLEVELAND - Malaria kills about 2 million people annually, mostly African children under the age of 5. While conventional approaches to controlling the disease have been ineffective, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine researchers are developing a genetically altered mosquito that one day could be added to the arsenal in the war against the disease.

The May 23 issue of the journal "Nature" features a paper by a team of CWRU Department of Genetics scientists, led by Professor of Genetics Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, Ph.D., that discusses research into transgenic or genetically altered mosquitoes that prevent the passage of malaria from one individual to the next. The paper is titled Transgenic Anopheline Mosquitoes Impaired in Transmission of a Malaria Parasite.

There are thousands of types of mosquitoes, but very few carry the malaria parasite, and only the genus, anopheles, transmits malaria among mammals. Mosquitoes are the obligatory hosts for malaria since the parasite cannot be passed directly from human to human. When a mosquito ingests blood from an infected host, the parasite Plasmodium enters the mosquitos body and goes through several transformations before taking a form that the mosquito can pass on by biting another person. Jacobs-Lorena explained that when a mosquito feeds on an infected individual, the parasite reproduces in the mosquitos midgut and takes the form of an ookinete. The ookinetes then move through the epithelial layer of the midgut into the body cavity of the mosquito and mature into oocysts. After a period of 10 to 15 days, the cysts burst and thousands of sporozoites are released and invade the salivary glands, where they stay until a mosquito bites the next person.

CWRU researchers created a gene SM1 in the laboratory encoding for a protein that interferes with the development of the parasite in the mosquito. Scientists injected this gene into the embryos of Anopheles stephensi mosqui

Contact: George Stamatis
Case Western Reserve University

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