Malaria is mainly transmitted through mosquito bites, and currently discussed methods of prevention are nothing more than killing the insects or preventing mosquitoes from acquiring the parasite, but now there is a new method that once the parasite enters the mosquito’s gut, its growth is hindered.
Malaria is a disease transmitted by infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. After biting someone with malaria, the mosquito becomes infected and spreads the malaria when it bites another person. During this process, the parasite enters the insect’s gut along with the sucked blood and enters the next stage of development. Once this stage is reached, the parasite transfers to the mosquito’s salivary glands and can infect the next person bitten by the mosquito.
According to project scientists at Imperial College London’s “Zero project”, only about 10 percent of parasite-carrying mosquitoes live long enough for the parasite to reach the infectious stage. In response, researchers have set out to slow the growth of parasites in the insect’s gut, causing the parasites in mosquitoes to age and die before they reach the salivary glands.
Scientists genetically modified Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes to produce two types of “antibacterial peptide” molecules each time they ingest blood. Obtained from African clawed frogs and honeybees, these molecules interfere with the parasite’s energy metabolism. At the same time, this helps shorten the mosquito’s lifespan, increasing the likelihood that the mosquito will die before the parasite becomes infectious. Generally, the lifespan of an adult female mosquito is about six weeks.
According to the researchers’ experiments, the modified mosquitoes are indeed less successful than ordinary mosquitoes in transmitting malaria. If they are released into the wild, the modified mosquitoes will mate with other mosquitoes, and these genes will be spread to a wider group, which will help to suppress malaria.
The only pity is that due to the short lifespan of these mosquitoes, they are obviously at a disadvantage in terms of acquired survival and are likely to be quickly eliminated from the gene pool in the natural process. That’s why scientists are studying gene drives, genetic components that force the spread of modified genes in a population, to further improve mosquitoes.
Researchers plan to improve mosquitoes at a facility in Tanzania. They tested two species of mosquitoes, one with only the parasite-suppressing molecule and the other with only the gene drive. If neither presents ecological hazards, they can be combined into one strain.
Astrid Hoermann, a postdoctoral researcher and co-author of the paper, said, “We have been trying for years to create mosquitoes that cannot be infected by parasites, or mosquitoes that can use the immune system to eliminate all parasites, but to no avail, delaying the development of parasites in mosquitoes. , is a conceptual shift that offers more opportunities to interrupt malaria transmission.”
(Source of the first image: pixabay)
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