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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 C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Friday October 29, 2010 @02:21PM (#34065578) Journal

    they're gonna need, if they want to give malaria shots to all mosquitos all there.

    talk about a steady hand and LOTS of pacience.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Immunizing mosquitoes would be more "lots of patients"

    • The Republicans will never let this fly!

    • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Friday October 29, 2010 @04:13PM (#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?
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by icebike (68054)

        Not to belabor the obvious, but who said anything about injections?

        Immunization does not require injections.
        Can we stop now? Please?

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        Interesting read! Thanks!

        This fiber, does it have a channel in it, or do you use surface tension to puncture the surface and let the substance "suck" in? If neither, how do you actually get the fluid in there?

  • Wow (Score:3, Funny)

    by Lucas123 (935744) on Friday October 29, 2010 @02:21PM (#34065584) Homepage
    Just imagine the size of the needles...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 29, 2010 @02:22PM (#34065602)

    Many mosquitoes believe immunizations cause autism.

    • LOL++
    • Autism? So that's why they fly into the window repeatedly...
    • Your post advocates a

      (*) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

      approach to fighting malaria. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from country to country before a bad federal law was passed.)

      ( ) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
      (*) It is defenseless against guys who squash good mosquitoes before they have a chance to reproduce
      (*) It will stop

  • Just brilliant (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Toe, The (545098) on Friday October 29, 2010 @02:26PM (#34065660)

    Seriously. Einstein didn't create the question behind the theory of relativity: he simply turned an existing question on its head. (The question others couldn't answer was why the speed of light always seemed to be constant regardless of the velocity of the observer, and Einstein "simply" started with the proposition that c is always constant and derived Special Relativity from there.)

    This is another beautiful example of turning a problem on it's head. It gives me faith in the infinite potential of science to make new discoveries.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      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.

      • by treeves (963993)

        Mr. Hannibal Lecter does not like your proposal. He would like to consume your liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

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

        by Guppy (12314) on Friday October 29, 2010 @03:47PM (#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 Thiez (1281866)

      Not *that* brilliant. The thought that immunizing mosquitoes might help against malaria has crossed MY mind a couple of years ago, and I'm not even a biologist. I would be extremely surprised if this thing wasn't known for years if not decades amongst people trying to fight malaria. He's probably just the first one who got this thing to work, which is nice, but hardly makes him comparable to Einstein.

    • by Anomalyx (1731404)
      Einstein: Why does does the speed of light not appear to be affected by motion? Let's assume it is never affected by motion. Let's go one step further and assume it is always constant no matter what.

      Einsteinian method applied: Why is Malaria appearing to remain as a problem? Let's assume it is still a problem. Let's go one step further and assume it will always be a problem no matter what.

      So I propose that Malaria is always constant. Quick, somebody derive some theory with a fancy name, so we can teac
  • That girl, who is she, Jenny McCarthy or Jen Aniston or whoever, will protest that these immunizations create autism in mosquitoes and the idiotic press will cover it wall to wall and the mosquitoes will get scared and none of them will show up to take the immunization shots.
  • Instead of vaccinating a few million humans, we're going to vaccinate a few thousand million mosquitos?

    I'm pretty sure that with mosquitos reproducing really quickly and all that, its kinda useless.

    Now if we instead make genetically modified mosquitos which can resist it, we could have a winner.
    • Around here we call a thousand million something different, it's a billion.
      • by jgtg32a (1173373)
        And in other places they call it a milliard.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by khallow (566160)

        Around here we call a thousand million something different, it's a billion.

        That's probably because he's from the UK. They shipped all the crazy people to the States and the crooks to Australia. Now there's nobody interesting left.

      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        Depends if you're talking about Long Scale or Short Scale number naming. Long Scale is still pretty popular in Europe and the non-English speaking world, IIRC.

        Long Scale used to be the British method too, although Short Scale has mostly (and probably officially) replaced it now.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_and_short_scales [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dutch Gun (899105)

      The mosquitoes are immunized by biting the humans.

      The next question was how to get the mosquitoes to pick up the antigen. Since it is easier to get people to take injections than it is to find mosquitoes, the answer was to allow people to transmit it to mosquitoes when they bite. The antibody itself doesn't protect against malaria, but when a mosquito bites a treated person, the parasite can no longer use the mosquito's gut to reproduce.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by Haedrian (1676506)
        Yes, that part I understood - but

        1.) Are you going to immunise all the humans?

        2.) Mosquitos reproduce a lot. So the parent which was immunised will still have unimmunised children.

        Sure, if you can immunise all the malaria sufferers, it'd be neat-o - end of disease. However with all the time and resources you need to do that - not to mention that the guy is going to die anyway - is it really worth it?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Amouth (879122)
          just like we failed with smallpox
        • by Dutch Gun (899105)

          My guess is that this would be an additive to a normal malaria immunization shot. So, when an immunized human is bitten by any mosquito, that mosquito also becomes immune to becoming a malaria carrier as well. It's a neat way to piggyback a secondary immunization strategy onto an infrastructure required for primary immunization. It would make that single immunization more effective than it otherwise would have been.

          Sure, if you can immunise all the malaria sufferers, it'd be neat-o - end of disease. However with all the time and resources you need to do that - not to mention that the guy is going to die anyway - is it really worth it?

          I consider wiping out a deadly disease to be a pretty good long-term investment for humani

          • by Haedrian (1676506)
            Not what I meant.

            What I mean is, you're going to get a guy who's dying and tell him "Oh, no we don't have any medicine for you - too expensive and all that. We do however have stuff to make all the mosquitos who will bite you immune to it though. :) "
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      This depends if the inactivation of the receptors changes the survival rate. If it boosts it, after a nebulous threshold they will naturally overtake the "unvaccinated" population.

      If it proves a detriment, however, the odds of it doing that are much more diminished.

  • Population impact? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by swb (14022) on Friday October 29, 2010 @02:38PM (#34065792)

    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.

    • by jmikelittle (1246304) on Friday October 29, 2010 @02:44PM (#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.

      • Hans Rosling expained it really well at TED.

        http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.html [ted.com]

      • by swb (14022)

        That may be true, but there are a number of potentially mitigating factors.

        For one, lower population growth has to be a function of generations; it very likely wouldn't happen in a single generation. At least initially there would be a growth in population as parents would continue to have large families. There's also the question of culture and religion -- in many cases family size is driven by religious faith or other cultural norms, not necessarily life expectancy.

        Secondly, checking malaria would impro

        • by jc42 (318812)

          ... lower population growth has to be a function of generations; it very likely wouldn't happen in a single generation. At least initially there would be a growth in population as parents would continue to have large families.

          Actually, experiments done (sometimes unintentionally) in many parts of the world have shown this to not be true. If local laws are changed to block control by the religious moralists and make affordable birth control available to the poor population, the birth rate shows a sudden dra

          • by swb (14022)

            Interesting. The challenge, of course, being large swaths of Africa where political control and religious control go hand in hand.

      • "It's been repeatedly shown that improved life expectancy and a higher standard of living lowers population growth"
        Well, then you can surely provide a link to a research paper.

        On the other hand cities always had below replacement fertility rates.

      • "The less you are sure your kids will live, the more you'd want to make some replacements just in case." ...Why? What's the point?

        • Because the more children you have, the more likely one of them will grow to adulthood. I have a letter written to my great-great-great-grandfather by a nephew of his in the 1860s; the writer mentions, matter-of-factly, that three of his children have died of scarlet fever since he last wrote; since four more of his children had died of scarlet fever previously, that left him with only two children.
          • "Because the more children you have, the more likely one of them will grow to adulthood."

            Why do they care about that? Trying to overpopulate the planet with their worthless genes is a selfish effort.

            • by tehdaemon (753808)
              For the same reason people in the US care about their 401k's. It's their retirement. (there is probably a dose of raw reproductive instinct as well)

              T

            • Because in those societies, your kids are your retirement plan. Once you're too old to provide for yourself, your kids take care of you.

              As for "overpopulating the planet" with "worthless genes", I suggest you take the first step toward stopping that problem and castrate yourself. You know, for the good of the planet.

              • "I suggest you take the first step toward stopping that problem and castrate yourself."

                I don't see what good this will do. Will this somehow stop a majority of the population from reproducing? My point was that their habit of bringing children into this world (and in their terrible environment) when there are already so many is irresponsible.

      • So that explains all those Mormon families with 4-10 kids! Oh wait...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thomst (1640045)

      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 desperat

  • Very wise, Dingla San. You sense the vulnerability of the prasmodium!

  • This won't go over well with those in favor of population control and radical environmentalism. They will stop this, like they did DDT!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Ahh, you can tell it's halloween, the ghost stories are coming out. For example, here we have the tale of the frightening "radical environmentalist" who, apparently, wants to control the population through... like... protecting the environment and shit.

      Are you next going to regale us with the tale of the evil illegal immigrant nefariously TAKING YER JERBS?

  • You'd be wrong if you assumed that he intended to inject the vaccine to the mosquitoes directly. He actually suggests to give humans the antibodies, which will then be picked up by the mosquito when it bites the person.

    From TFA

    The next question was how to get the mosquitoes to pick up the antigen. Since it is easier to get people to take injections than it is to find mosquitoes, the answer was to allow people to transmit it to mosquitoes when they bite. The antibody itself doesn't protect against malaria, but when a mosquito bites a treated person, the parasite can no longer use the mosquito's gut to reproduce.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cindyann (1916572)

      There isn't enough money to give everyone a $2 mosquito net treated with an insecticide.

      Where will they get enough money to buy, distribute, and vaccinate everyone?

      What do you want to bet that after Big Pharma gets through, the vaccine will cost way more than a net.

      • by Dutch Gun (899105)

        There's a chance the Gates foundation may very well be funding this (or similar projects), as global eradication of malaria seems to be one of their causes.

        Also, on the Wikipedia article I read regarding the elimination of infectious diseases, it appears some drugs are actually donated by "Big Pharma". I have no idea how widespread that practice is though.

  • by aapold (753705) on Friday October 29, 2010 @03:04PM (#34066168) Homepage Journal
    Malaria is not the only mosquito-bourne illness... Yellow Fever, Dengue, etc can also be transmitted via them. If you kill the mosquito, it can't transmit any of these, but if you get it to resist malaria, you've only stopped one... but still I do like the approach, seems better than some methods of the past... I grew up in the Panama Canal Zone, where malaria had previously devastated an earlier attempt at a canal by the French (DeLesseps). Mosquitos were controlled by basically spraying oil onto any standing water including ponds, lakes, pools, etc, which would klll the mosquito larvae (and many other things) in the water. Later while I was there as a kid, to keep the populations down, they would drive trucks through residential neighborhoods fogging them with DDT to kill mosquitos. Many kinds would race behind the sprayer trucks on bicycles to get a good dose of the stuff as it would keep mosquitos off of you the rest of the night...
  • for this method to work, they would need to 'infect' a large percentage of the world population with their antigen, and keep doing it indefinitely, since mosquitoes aren't known for their long life-cycles and this treatment probably isn't hereditary.

    So who is going to pay for this? Why waste money vaccinating millions(billions) of people, to reduce infections in the short term sounds like a waste of money that could be better used to cure those already infected.

    • Vaccination is a waste of money but cures are not? Which pharmaceutical company are you shilling for?
      • This vaccine doesn't even protect the person that was vaccinated.
        All it does is prevent mosquitoes that bite the person from being infected by malaria. So, considering the lifespan of a mosquito, people will constantly have to keep getting these vaccines indeffinitely, if we want to see any benefit whatsoever. Of course this ignores the possibility of mosquitoes being infected before biting a human (monkeys etc).

        So yes, cures for people that actually get infected are probably a much better choice then vacci

        • What do you mean that the vaccine doesn't protect the person vaccinated? Isn't just like a flu shot? Please explain clearly with your data & source. Thanks!
          • The article states that the vaccine will only stop the mosquito from being infected by malaria. So the person vaccinated just protects MOSQUITOES that bite them from being infected.

  • by PvtVoid (1252388)
    Think of the autistic mosquitoes!
  • Bats seem to eat these pesky mosquito critters, so why don't we simply implement "pro-bat" policies in malaria infected countries?

    Oh, malaria infected vampire bats biting and infecting folks? Just what we need for Halloween!

    • Most bat species don't drink blood. And even those which do, bite bigger mammals like cows and horses, not humans.

  • This is my preferred method of dealing with those bastards: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VICaWgD-76w [youtube.com]
  • by perrin (891) on Friday October 29, 2010 @06:23PM (#34068878)

    Malaria is only transferred by some species of mosquito. One thing governments in affected regions have been doing is to release mosquitoes from species that can out-compete the malaria-carrying species. These are typically larger and bite harder, but it is still better than being infected by malaria. I visited one such region recently, and while the larger mosquitoes are more frightening, they are still nothing compared to the horror that is tsetse flies.

    • by Vernes (720223)
      That is, until larger means "being able to pick you off the ground and fly off with you"
    • I don't understand how these mosquitoes compete. Aren't there enough food sources for all of them?

    • I visited one such region recently

      wtfbbq? What such region might this be? I study biocontrol and mosquitoes, and this seems like a wacky (stupid) idea. The expertise required to rear, transport and release mosquitoes implies some level of expertise (and financing), so I'd be curious who is behind it and how they justify this...

  • costs many developing countries millions of dollars a year in lost productivity.

    That's a very, um, interesting way of saying "killing between one and three million people [a year], the majority of whom are young children" [wikipedia.org]. Who knew that the main problem with immense death, suffering and destruction was the lost productivity? Well, at least it's only kids, so not much skills and productivity is lost by that, yeah?

  • So, we're all waiting for Jenny McCarthy's take on this development right? Age of Autism will be ramping up the PR machine by now to mobilise their horde of mommybloggers around the globe to fight this. Can't wait for the Andrew Wakefield press conference...

  • Or, you know, you could just use Olive Leaf Extract [google.com]. You can make it yourself; Pliny's recipe was three olive leaves crushed into a cup of boiling water, drink thrice daily (IIRC) until the fever subsides.

    I realize Olives don't grow everywhere, but the leaves transport almost as well as the cured/curing fruit...

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