Modified bug knocks out malaria parasite

July 17th, 2012 - 3:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 17 (IANS) Scientists are using a modified mosquito bug to knock out the deadliest malaria parasite, present in the insect’s gut, by 98 percent.

The bug, Pantoea agglomerans, was modified to secrete proteins toxic to the malaria parasite, P. falciparum, but is harmless to mosquito or humans.

Malaria kills more than 800,000 people worldwide every year, many of them being children, the journal Publication of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

“In the past, we worked to genetically modify the mosquito to resist malaria, but genetic modification of bacteria is a simpler approach,” said Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, senior study author and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“The ultimate goal is to completely prevent the mosquito from spreading the malaria parasite to people,” added Jacobs-Lorena.

He and his colleagues found that the engineered P. agglomerans strains (mosquito gut bug), inhibited development of the P. falciparum and rodent malaria parasite P. berghei by up to 98 percent within the mosquito, according to a Johns Hopkins statement.

“We demonstrate the use of an engineered symbiotic bacterium to interfere with the development of P. falciparum in the mosquito,” said Jacobs-Lorena.

“These findings provide the foundation for the use of genetically modified symbiotic bacteria as a powerful tool to combat malaria,” he added.

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