Figure 1. Anopheles mosquitoes

  • Malaria is a life-threating blood disease transmitted to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes, known as Anopheles mosquitoes. Malaria kills an estimated 660,000 people each year (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).
  • Lately, a strain of genetically modified mosquitoes could be the key to wiping out malaria, scientists have revealed (Lizzie Parry, 2015). Scientists have produced strains of genetically engineered mosquitoes that cannot transmit the malarial parasite (M. T. Marrelli, C. Li, J. L. Rasgon, M. Jacobs-Lorena, 2007).
  • Fighting malaria with mosquitoes seems like a bizarre and ironic strategy, but that’s exactly what modern genetics and molecular biology targets.

Malaria, one of the world’s leading health problems,  was first mentioned in 1880 as a disease caused by parasitic infection. It infects about 250 million people worldwide and kills circa a million, most of them children.  Female  Anopheles mosquitoes, which is the only mosquito that can transmit the infection to the human body, carry several forms of the malaria parasites. There are more than 100 types of  Plasmodium parasites which can infect a variety of species, whereas scientists have identified five specific types that infect humans (P.falciparum, P.vivax, P.ovale, P.malarie, P.knowlesi).

Strategies for controlling and preventing malaria focus on ways of killing the mosquitoes that spread the disease or stopping them from biting humans. Thinking of mosquitoes as simply carriers of the true cause- Plasmodium, we can conclude that mosquitoes themselves are not the real problem. With the power of modern genetics and molecular biology, scientists have produced strains of genetically engineered mosquitoes that cannot transmit the malarial parasite (M. T. Marrelli, C. Li, J. L. Rasgon, M. Jacobs-Lorena, 2007). Genetically modified mosquitoes carry a modified gene, known as a transgene, which produces chemicals that interfere with Plasmodium’s development. Through this modification, mosquitoes instead of being suitable carries, the bodies of the genetically modified mosquitoes spell death for any invading Plasmodium.

Figure 2. How Genetically Modified Mosquitoes work

The theory is that the genetically modified insects could be released into the wild, where they will breed with malaria-carrying mosquitoes, passing on the gene preventing malaria transmission being passed to their offspring (Lizzie Parry, 2015).

 

COPYRIGHT: This article is property of We Speak Science, a nonprofit institution co-founded by Dr. Detina Zalli (Harvard University) and Dr. Argita Zalli (Imperial College London). The article is written by Elona Xhemaili (State University of Tetovo, Master of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Macedonia)

 

REFERENCES:

  • http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/16/engineering-mosquito-gut-bacteria-to-fight-malari/
  • http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2008/10/21/genetically-modified-mosquitoes-fight-malaria-by-outcompeting-normal-ones/
  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/malaria/home/ovc-20167984
  • http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/150670.php
  • http://www.hardydiagnostics.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Mosquitoes-Genetically-Modified.pdf
  • http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3330934/Genetically-modified-mosquitoes-eradicate-malaria-passing-genes-stop-spread-killer-disease-offspring.html