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Biotech Medicine Science

Stopping Malaria By Immunizing Mosquitoes 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the will-they-get-a-public-option dept.
RedEaredSlider writes "Millions of people in the tropics suffer from malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that has been difficult to treat and which costs many developing countries millions of dollars per year in lost productivity. Up to now, efforts at controlling it have focused on attacking the parasites that cause it, keeping mosquitoes from biting, or killing the insects. But at Johns Hopkins University, Rhoel Dinglasan, an entomologist and biologist, decided to try another tack: immunizing mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected human, it takes up some of the gametocytes. They aren't dangerous to people at that stage. Since plasmodium is vulnerable there, that is the point Dinglasan chose to attack. A mosquito's gut has certain receptor molecules in it that the plasmodium can bind to. Dinglasan asked what would happen if the parasite couldn't 'see' them, which would happen if another molecule, some antigen, were binding to those receptors."
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Stopping Malaria By Immunizing Mosquitoes

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  • by jmikelittle (1246304) on Friday October 29, 2010 @01:44PM (#34065890)

    I wonder if anyone has taken into account the population growth question that results and what the impact on poor regions like Africa that suffer most of the deaths?

    .... this has the potential to equal millions more people if even a relatively small portion (25%?) go on to produce a family with 4-6 offspring.

    It's been repeatedly shown that improved life expectancy and a higher standard of living lowers population growth. If you know your first two children will live relatively healthy and prosperous lives, there is a diminishing incentive to continue to produce children. The less you are sure your kids will live, the more you'd want to make some replacements just in case.

  • Re:Just brilliant (Score:2, Informative)

    by E IS mC(Square) (721736) on Friday October 29, 2010 @01:46PM (#34065918) Journal

    If you really want to turn it on it's head, have a mutation and develop G6PD deficiency (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glucose-6-phosphate_dehydrogenase_deficiency#Epidemiology) - an automatic protection against malaria. (G6PD deficiency is also known as Favism).

    Only side effect would be not being able to eat fava beans.

    One of the theories is that the mutation was caused as survival against malaria / mosquitoes.

  • Re:Wait so... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Amouth (879122) on Friday October 29, 2010 @02:08PM (#34066238)
    just like we failed with smallpox
  • by thomst (1640045) on Friday October 29, 2010 @02:39PM (#34066642) Homepage

    As much as I appreciate the diminishment of death and suffering when a disease like malaria can be neutralized, I wonder if anyone has taken into account the population growth question that results and what the impact on poor regions like Africa that suffer most of the deaths?

    It's "only" 800,000 some deaths per year, but given that they are mostly among children this has the potential to equal millions more people if even a relatively small portion (25%?) go on to produce a family with 4-6 offspring.

    The current overpopulation problem in Africa and elsewhere is due in some measure to the ready availability of inexpensive antibiotics, as well as social factors, such as resistance to the use of birth control by men, and the increase in social status from fathering many children.

    Improved life expectancy alone has no effect on this trend - it's better, higher, more widespread education, combined with a higher standard of living that brings birth rates down. As long as the majority of Africa remains desperately impoverished and uneducated, removing malaria from the picture will, indeed, result in additional population pressure there.

    In my book, that means that eliminating malaria is still desirable - alleviating human suffering is always a Good Thing - but it absolutely must be combined with a concerted, long-term effort to raise both Africa's standard of living and its general educational level by considerable amounts. Otherwise, the Law of Unintended Consequences raises its ugly, fanged head, and defeating malaria winds up adding to, rather than subtracting from, the sum of Africa's misery.

  • Re:Just brilliant (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guppy (12314) on Friday October 29, 2010 @02:47PM (#34066750)

    Only side effect would be not being able to eat fava beans.

    If "only" that were true. As the wiki entry you linked to points out, for people with G6PD deficiency, a hemolytic anemia reaction can be induced by various drugs and chemicals (including some pretty common ones -- I once met a patient with G6PD deficiency, who apparently had an attack triggered by solvent vapors in a nail salon). Ironically enough, some of these drugs on the problem list include a number of anti-malarial agents.

    Infections can also precipitate a crisis, and that's not something you can simply tell them to avoid. So unfortunately, it is a very imperfect defense against Malaria. However, so great was the historical (and in some areas, current) burden, that the advantages outweighed the drawbacks -- as they did for Sickle Cell trait, Alpha and Beta Thalessemia, Hereditary Elliptocytosis, Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (maybe), and several others. For more information, see Genetic Resistance to Malaria [wikipedia.org] as a good starting place.

  • by lazn (202878) on Friday October 29, 2010 @03:00PM (#34066946)

    Sure, but DDT is safe to humans. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/710158/posts [freerepublic.com]
    "And DDT is extraordinarily safe for humans. Prof Kenneth Mellanby lectured on it for more than 40 years, and during each lecture he would eat a pinch."

    And DDT does not hurt wildlife either, bird populations were increasing during the years DDT was in the most widespread use.

    more info that is middle of the road:
    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2428/was-rachel-carson-a-fraud-and-is-ddt-actually-safe-for-humans [straightdope.com]

  • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Friday October 29, 2010 @03:13PM (#34067230) Journal
    Injecting mosquitoes and not killing them is pretty challenging. I work in a mosquito lab and a few members have experiments where they inject adult mosquitoes. The volume you inject is less than one microliter, which means using a glass fiber made by heating and drawing out a glass pipette which itself takes some skill to do properly. So you take a mosquito which has been on a chill plate, which renders them immobile for a while but without permanent harm, and put them on a small tube that holds them via suction. Then you have the glass fiber hooked up to a syringe with your sample, and the fiber in a holder whose position can be finely adjusted with a couple knobs. Under a low power dissecting microscope you adjust the holder to put the fiber into the mosquito's meatiest part, the flight muscles under the wings right behind the head, and inject your sample. If your fiber is too big the wound will kill the "patient," if you inject in slightly the wrong place your sample often ends up in the digestive tract, and if you inject with too much you can explode the mosquito. People in the lab who are good at it have about a 90% success rate. I'm hoping to get to do this injection procedure soon for a set of experiments. Who would turn down the opportunity to turn the tables on the little bastards and inject them with something for a change?

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