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Archive for month: January, 2017

India begins outdoor caged trials of genetically modified mosquitoes

India begins outdoor caged trials of genetically modified mosquitoes

India launched a project aimed at suppressing the local Aedes aegypti mosquito population by introducing genetically modified mosquitoes, according to two companies involved in the plan.

A similar project was approved last year in Florida on the heels of the Zika virus outbreak, which has been driven primarily by A. aegypti mosquitoes. Both projects involve so-called self-limiting male mosquitoes — brand name Friendly (Oxitec) — that are genetically modified to produce offspring that do not survive to maturity.

Five open field trials of the mosquitoes in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands each led to a more than 90% reduction of the wild A. aegypti populations, according to a news release from the British company Oxitec and Gangabishan Bhikulal Investment and Trading Limited (GBIT), an Indian company. Open field trials are also planned for India, pending regulatory approval, the companies said.

For now, the India project was launched on Jan. 23 with outdoor caged trials in Dawalwadi. In these trials, the genetically modified mosquitoes are released into cages to mate with wild-type A. aegypti mosquitoes, Matthew Warren, spokesman for Oxitec, explained to Infectious Disease News. The results are then compared with cages where the mosquitoes were not released, Warren said.

In November, officials in Florida authorized a plan to use Oxitec’s modified mosquitoes in a field trial in Monroe County. The decision by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) came after residents, apparently reluctant about the method at first, voted to approve the idea.

An earlier survey showed that residents did not support the use of genetically modified mosquitoes as insect control, but the survey was conducted before the Zika outbreak became headline news and prior to an FDA report that said the mosquitoes would have no significant impact on human health, animal health or the environment.

Oxitec is currently deploying the mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands and Piracicaba, Brazil, but Warren said the trial in the Florida Keys is not yet underway.

“We are working with the FKMCD to identify a new site for the trial, and are gathering and submitting additional information to the FDA,” Warren said. “At this stage I don’t have a timeline, but we’re working to ensure that it is held in the most rigorous way possible and launched as promptly as the regulatory process will allow.”

While India is not among the 76 countries that have reported evidence of mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission since 2007, WHO has said that any country with a population of Aedes mosquitoes is at risk for transmission.

The primary aim of the project in India seems to be decreasing cases of dengue and chikungunya, which also can be spread by A. aegypti mosquitoes. According to estimates published in 2014, dengue infects an average of 5.8 million people each year in India at a cost of more than $1.1 billion. The country also has seen outbreaks of chikungunya, including some last year, according to the news release.

“Increasing cases of dengue and chikungunya have been reported in recent years,” Shirish Barwale, member of the board of directors at GBIT, said in the release. “Presently available methods have not been effective against these public health hazards. We are very optimistic that this pioneering technology from Oxitec will help us to control the mosquito responsible for spreading these diseases.” – by Gerard Gallagher

Source: Healio

What a mosquito’s immune system can tell us about fighting malaria

What a mosquito’s immune system can tell us about fighting malaria

Immune cells in a malaria-transmitting mosquito sense the invading parasites and deploy an army of tiny messengers in response. These couriers help turn on a mosquito’s defenses, killing off the parasites, a new study suggests.

This more detailed understanding of the mosquito immune system, published January 20 in Science Immunology, might help scientists design new ways to combat malaria, which infects more than 200 million people per year.

“If we understand how the mosquito reduces the parasite to begin with, we hope we can boost these mechanisms to completely eliminate these parasites [in mosquitoes],” says Kristin Michel, an insect immunologist at Kansas State University in Manhattan who wasn’t part of the study.

Different parasites in the Plasmodium genus cause malaria. The disease is spread by certain Anopheles mosquitoes. These mosquitoes have natural defenses against Plasmodium that keep them from being overrun with the parasites when feeding on an infected person’s blood. But malaria transmission still occurs, because some Plasmodium species are particularly skilled at evading mosquito immune systems.

Previous research has shown that hemocytes, the insect equivalent of white blood cells, help mosquitoes fight off pathogens. Carolina Barillas-Mury and her colleagues at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Rockville, Md., injected Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes — a primary spreader of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa — with a dye that stained their hemocytes. Those mosquitoes snacked on mice infected with a rodent version of malaria. Then the scientists watched the dyed hemocytes’ response.
Parasite’s problem

Sensing the presence of a malaria-causing parasite, mosquito immune cells (teal) kill themselves and release microvesicles (red) that activate cellular machinery that fights off the parasites, a new study finds.

Hemocytes that detected certain chemical fingerprints left by the parasites began to self-destruct. These dying hemocytes released plumes of tiny vesicles that then activated the mosquito’s defenses against the parasite, the researchers found. The vesicles triggered a protein called TEP1 to take down the parasite. Scientists already knew that TEP1 is an important part of mosquitoes’ immune response against Plasmodium parasites, but it wasn’t clear how the protein was called into action. Without the vesicles, TEP1 didn’t target the parasites.

Barillas-Mury and colleagues don’t know exactly what the microvesicles contain. But she suspects they carry messenger molecules that jump-start TEP1 and other proteins involved in this immune response.

This type of response “is a very powerful defense system because it can make holes in the parasite and kill it,” says Barillas-Mury. “You want it to be active, but in the right place and at the right time.” Plasmodium parasites set up shop in different places in the mosquito gut depending on their life stage. Microvesicles, much smaller than the hemocytes, can more easily move through different gut compartments to trigger a localized immune response right where the parasite is.

The researchers eventually hope to use their understanding of the mosquito immune response to develop new ways to stop malaria. They’re interested in creating a vaccine that prevents mosquitoes that bite an infected person from passing along the parasite. Such a vaccine could be used in combination with others under development that would prevent people infected with the parasite from becoming sick, Barillas-Mury says.

Source: Sciencenews.org

Scientists create mosquitoes resistant to dengue virus

Scientists create mosquitoes resistant to dengue virus

Mosquitoes get infected when they feed on someone who has the disease. Then they pass dengue to healthy people by biting them.

Each year, dengue sickens about 96 million people worldwide. The virus kills more than 20,000 people, mostly children, the researchers said.

“If you can replace a natural population of dengue-transmitting mosquitoes with genetically modified ones that are resistant to virus, you can stop disease transmission. This is a first step toward that goal,” said study leader George Dimopoulos, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Hopkins.

The genetic modifications significantly increased the mosquitoes’ resistance to dengue. But the changes didn’t boost the mosquitoes’ defenses against Zika or chikungunya viruses.

“This finding, although disappointing, teaches us something about the mosquito’s immune system and how it deals with different viruses. It will guide us on how to make mosquitoes resistant to multiple types of viruses,” Dimopoulos said in a Hopkins news release.

He and his team said more research and testing is needed before these dengue-resistant mosquitoes are introduced into the wild, a process they said could take a decade or more.

Forty percent of the world’s population live in areas where they are at risk for dengue infection, the study authors said. The virus is most common in Southeast Asia and the western Pacific islands. But dengue infections have been increasing in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The research was published Jan. 12 in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Source: UPI

Behavioral Resistance: Mosquitoes Learn to Avoid Bed Nets

Behavioral Resistance: Mosquitoes Learn to Avoid Bed Nets

Malaria is a notoriously tricky infectious disease. Because of a unique genetic flexibility, it is able to change surface proteins, avoiding the immune response and greatly complicating vaccine development. Furthermore, the parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes, which are difficult to control. Insecticides work, but mosquitoes can develop resistance to them.

One method widely used to control malaria is for governments or charities to provide families with insecticide-treated bed nets. Overall, this strategy is very successful, and it has been credited with preventing some 451 million cases of malaria in the past 15 years. But bed nets are not successful everywhere. In some parts of the world, mosquitoes develop “behavioral resistance”; i.e., they learn to avoid bed nets by biting people earlier in the day.

A team led by Lisa Reimer of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine monitored mosquito behavior in villages in Papua New Guinea before (2008) and after (2009-2011) the distribution of bed nets. Data from one of the villages, Mauno, depicts a very noticeable shift in mosquito feeding behavior.

Before bed nets were distributed in 2008, the median biting time for mosquitoes was around midnight. After the distribution, the median time shifted back to 10 pm. Also, a greater proportion of mosquitoes took their dinner even earlier, from 7 to 9 pm.

Worryingly, it’s unclear whether the bed nets were effective at preventing malaria transmission. The number of bites per person per night dropped after the introduction of bed nets, but started to climb in subsequent years as mosquitoes began to adapt. Additionally, the prevalence of malaria infection in humans — arguably, the only statistic that actually matters — dropped in one village, remained the same in a second, and ticked up slightly (albeit insignificantly) in a third.

Despite the mixed results in Papua New Guinea, Dr Reimer believes that bed nets should continue to be used worldwide as part of a mosquito control strategy. However, she notes that behavioral resistance may prove just as vexing as insecticide resistance and, in some locations, may limit the efficacy of bed nets.

Thus, mosquitoes must be monitored for both behavioral and insecticide resistance, as the little creeps stubbornly refuse to die and may be cleverer than we thought.

Source: Edward K. Thomsen et al. “Mosquito behaviour change after distribution of bednets results in decreased protection against malaria exposure.”

Source : Acsh.org

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