Does hope for a strategy to control malaria lie in a virus that can kill or program the mosquitoes that transmit the disease?
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Malaria Research Institute have identified a previously unknown virus that is infectious to Anopheles gambiae–the mosquito primarily responsible for transmitting malaria.
The virus is apparently harmless to mosquitoes, but researchers have already demonstrated that it can be manipulated. They successfully altered it to express harmless green fluorescent protein in adult mosquitoes which could be easily spotted under the microscope.
Image courtesy Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
“In theory, we could use this virus to produce a lethal toxin in the mosquito or instruct the mosquito to die after 10 days, which is before it can transmit the malaria parasite to humans,” said Jason Rasgon, senior author of a study that was published August 22 online in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS Pathogens.
“However, these concepts are many years away,” Rasgon said.
The newly identified virus is of a type that is common to mosquitoes and other insects, but does not infect vertebrate animals such as humans.
Although the virus does not appear to harm the mosquitoes, the researchers determined it is highly infectious to mosquito larvae and is easily passed on to the adults.
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