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Biotech Medicine

First 'Malaria-Proof' Mosquito Created 261

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-a-really-good-egg-cream dept.
Gisg writes "The University of Arizona team reported that their genetically modified mosquitoes are immune to the malaria-causing parasite, a single-cell organism called Plasmodium. Riehle and his colleagues tested their genetically-altered mosquitoes by feeding them malaria-infested blood. Not even one mosquito became infected with the malaria parasite."
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First 'Malaria-Proof' Mosquito Created

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  • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @08:18PM (#32921626)
    No need. There are already concepts designed to kill them with lasers all on their own:

    http://intellectualventureslab.com/?p=653 [intellectu...reslab.com]

  • TFA is a PR note. (Score:2, Informative)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @08:20PM (#32921642)
    I sacrificed myself and RTFA. No need to click on the link - there is no more info than that in the summary.
  • Re:side effect (Score:5, Informative)

    by causality (777677) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:15PM (#32922394)

    Other people (like me) are concerned about this too, but don't parade around screaming government conspiracy about it. Maybe we tend to be a little more open minded about it too, making us reserve judgement until we get some indication as to whether it's going to have major ecological disadvantages that would outweigh the advantages such as making healthy food cheaper or eradicating malaria.

    As another poster has already said, the problem is the control that goes along with the patent rights.

    I'll mention another problem. The moment we can write code of non-trivial complexity that can be perfectly verified to be entirely bug-free is the moment I will begin to believe that genetic engineers who plan to release a modified creature into the wild can foresee all possible consequences of their creation. At least with computer code, we design the entire system from the ground up, both the hardware and the software, we have complete control over both, and still cannot guarantee that something will function as intended. Methinks that perfectly verifying no negative and unforeseen consequences with genetics will be more difficult still, since we discovered that system and did not design it and do not fully control it.

    Killer bees were an attempt to cross-breed two species of honeybee that normally would never be able to produce offspring. It was supposed to give us the hardiness of the African bee with the docility and honey production of the European bee. What we ended up with was a monster that has caused many highly unpleasant deaths. That wasn't malice on the part of the scientists. It was their inability to completely foresee what the result was going to be and how it was going to interact with an entire interconnected ecosystem of other species. There is precedent for wanting a bit more assurance than what has been offered prior to allowing such creatures in the wild.

  • by Animal Farm Pig (1600047) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:35PM (#32922518)

    I wonder where you've been in Mozambique... Costa do Sol doesn't count. I was a contractor in Manica province a couple of years back. I got malaria four times in one year. Every other international I knew contracted malaria. Mozambican colleagues were also infected often. We had treated nets, sprayed pesticides in our facilities, didn't let water stand, etc., etc.

    It doesn't work. Maybe you can point to some percentage decrease in an area, but people are still getting and dying from malaria. Relying on individual action (treated nets, spraying own facilities) or an on-going effort organized by the government (a national spraying campaign)... recipe for failure.

    I'm not saying we shouldn't take those kinds of actions-- any reduction is good. I'm saying that we should work towards total eradication of malaria. Ending poverty should put the material conditions in place, but maybe GM mosquitoes could help along the way.

  • Re:side effect (Score:2, Informative)

    by patrikor_007 (1094491) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:46PM (#32922588)

    depends how you figure size.

    at 1000x their volume, the GP is probably about right.

    at 1000x their length (1,000,000,000x their volume) they would be as you describe.

  • Re:That's nice. (Score:2, Informative)

    by mysidia (191772) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @11:08PM (#32922710)

    Well, I don't understand why Slashdot didn't publish a link to their actual press release [uanews.org] which is much more informative than medicaldaily.com's 5 paragraph paraphrasing. Their press release explains, that they are basically stimulating the mosquitos' own immune response and metabolism by playing around with the mosquitos' biological production of Akt signalling enzyme, it seems like were hoping to reduce mosquitos' life span by manipulating metabolic functions, and they got other interesting results:

    Specifically, they engineered a piece of genetic code acting as a molecular switch in the complex control of metabolic functions inside the cell. The genetic construct acts like a switch that is always set to "on," leading to the permanent activity of a signaling enzyme called Akt. Akt functions as a messenger molecule in several metabolic functions, including larval development, immune response and lifespan.

  • by ProfessionalCookie (673314) on Friday July 16, 2010 @12:13AM (#32923028) Journal
    I live in Mozambique (Pemba, Cabo Delgado) and we've got plenty of Malaria to go around. It's very, very common. And I'll look up the numbers for you...

    In Mozambique 2006, WHO reports:

    22 Million Suspected Cases
    7 Million Confirmed
    19 Thousand Dead
    Malaria instance rate went from 20% to 30% from 2001 to 2007

    And here's my citation: http://malaria.who.int/wmr2008/MAL2008-CountryProfiles/MAL2008-Mozambique-EN.pdf [who.int]

  • by ProfessionalCookie (673314) on Friday July 16, 2010 @12:18AM (#32923044) Journal
    By the way, Mozambique is about twice the size of California with a population of about 22 million. Yes that means
    there was at least one reported fever that was suspected to be malaria related for every single person in the country.

    *Note some people are infected more than once per year and some not at all.

  • by Seth Kriticos (1227934) on Friday July 16, 2010 @03:36AM (#32923810)

    Not just designs, full grown products are already here. See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSIWpFPkYrk [youtube.com]

  • Re:side effect (Score:3, Informative)

    by Civil_Disobedient (261825) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:58AM (#32925038)

    that causes perhaps one of the most painful deaths in nature.

    Writing as someone who also had malaria (P.falciparum and vivax simultaneously), I'd like to correct this because it's simply not true. Not in any way, shape or form. And I had the most dangerous form you can get.

    Worst case scenario, you spend a week cycling through chills and fevers, fevers and chills. Then you get TIRED. So tired you can barely move. Eventually, you go into a coma. After that there's plenty of bad shit going on to your system but you don't feel any of it because you're in a coma. Then you die. I didn't personally get to this part, but I'm guessing it's as painless as the coma was. According to my parents, I was certainly thrashing around a lot, had all kinds of fluids in my lungs, all that I'm sure appears painful, but honestly it was nothing compared to catheterization.

    Which is to say, yes, deadly, yes, you don't want to get it, but no, not the most painful way to shake off this mortal coil. Not even close. I could think of so many worse ways to go.

  • Re:side effect (Score:3, Informative)

    by silentcoder (1241496) on Friday July 16, 2010 @09:27AM (#32925264) Homepage

    >>that causes perhaps one of the most painful deaths in nature.

    >Writing as someone who also had malaria (P.falciparum and vivax simultaneously), I'd like to correct this because it's simply not true. Not in any way, shape or form. And I had the most dangerous form you can get.

    Right, so did I. In fact, I got it in Nigeria. Neither of us however have DIED of it. I doubt you went through the final stage symptoms because htey are invariable fatal - I didn't either. But what you list are the symptoms that happen in successfull treatments.
    Can you even IMAGINE a fever so high your skin actually burns to the touch. Severe delerium. Heart palpitations and a continuous and incredibly intense burning sensation over your entire skin so it feels as if you're being cooked from the inside out (which is not entirely inaccurate).
    Many people do NOT enter a coma, the vast majority drift in and out of consciousness and consider the coma's the best bit. As per numerous diaries on how it feels by people who did subsequently die from it. No pain killers have ANY effect, up to and including morphine - and nothing short of a chemically induced full-on coma relieves the pain at all.

    When you die... I imagine you must feel incredibly grateful to have it all over with.

    >Which is to say, yes, deadly, yes, you don't want to get it, but no, not the most painful way to shake off this mortal coil. Not even close. I could think of so many worse ways to go.

    Okay. I said ONE OF the most painful ways in nature. First I never claimed it was THE most painful, and secondly I SPECIFICALLY restricted it to natural deaths. Burning to death doesn't count. Very few diseases have such an extended and incredibly torturous gestation.
    One thing I can instantly think of that's likely to match it is a black widow bite. Because it's one of the strongest nerve toxins it attacks the nerve endings causing massive full-body pain at whatever the highest level is your brain can register. Every pain nerve ending is firing off "oh-shit" alarms like you can't believe. This isn't what happens to MOST people but it can happen in the most severe cases. Other neurotoxins can, in the right conditions create similar effects a well but as far as I know none are known to be as bad as black widow in a full-blown effect.
    But only 5% of UNTREATED Black Widow bites are fatal. With treatment you have a 100% survival rate (excepting of course edge cases like the very elderly). You recover in a day or so however.
    With malaria, today - if you are in final stage symptoms you know the pain won't stop until you die. There's not even HOPE to keep you going. Treated malaria never GETS to those stages.

    Unless you've actually seen it happen - you don't know what you're talking about.

  • Re:side effect (Score:2, Informative)

    by operagost (62405) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:32AM (#32925978) Homepage Journal

    DDT resistent malaria that was even worse

    Do you mean "mosquitoes"? DDT kills mosquitoes, not malaria.

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