Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dengue-Resistant Mosquitoes?

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University recently engineered dengue-resistant mosquitoes that might be useful in the effort against the disease. The mosquitoes were engineered to curtail completely their ability to transmit dengue virus to humans.

The mosquitoes used in the study (A. aegypti) had their genes altered to code for "Hop" and "Dome" proteins which would activate the JAK/SAT antiviral pathway. This pathway then limits the ability of Dengue viruses in those mosquitoes to proliferate, and, crucially, prevents their movement to mosquito salivary glands. These genetically engineered mosquitoes also produce fewer eggs than do wild type mosquitoes.

The impact of this research could be tremendous. The release of dengue-resistant mosquitoes into nature, in places where Dengue is endemic, would introduce that resistance to the mosquito gene pools in the area and could significantly reduce Dengue transmission and infection. This is furthered by the effects of the gene therapy to limit the reproductive potential of the mosquitoes. That this approach may also seem more 'humane' than the release of sterile insects, or the killing of insects using pesticides, also adds to its appeal.
Jupatanakul, Natapong, et al. "Engineered Aedes aegypti JAK/STAT Pathway-Mediated Immunity to Dengue Virus." PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases11.1 (2017): e0005187.

-Muzz Shittu

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