Sunday, March 21, 2010

Flying vaccinators

Everyone hates mosquitoes, right? But, what if a mosquito bite vaccinated you against malaria, a deadly disease that infects approximately 250 million people each year? "New research published in Insect Molecular Biology reveals that mosquito genetic engineering may turn the transmitter into a natural 'flying vaccinator', providing a new strategy for biological control over the disease."

The study, led by Shigeto Yoshida from Jichi Medical University, "targets the saliva gland of the Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes, the main vectors of human malaria."

"For the past decade it has been theorized that genetic engineering of the mosquito could create a 'flying vaccinator,' raising hopes for their use as a new strategy for malaria control. However so far research has been limited to a study of the insect's gut and the 'flying vaccinator' theory was not developed."

Mosquito bites offer a free and easy way to administer a vaccine. Continued "exposure to bites" is expected to produce "high levels of protective immunity, through natural boosting, for a life time. So the insect shifts from being a pest to being beneficial," according to Yoshida.

"While 'flying vaccinator' theory may now be scientifically possible the question of ethics hangs over the application of the research. A natural and uncontrolled method of delivering vaccines, without dealing with dosage and consent, alongside public acceptance to the release of 'vaccinating' mosquitoes, provide barriers to this method of disease control."

Is this idea too dangerous to be beneficial, or is it just radical enough to help eliminate malaria? The world has yet to decide.

Wiley-Blackwell (2010, March 19). 'Flying vaccinator': Can genetically engineered mosquitoes provide a new strategy against malaria?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 21, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/03/100318192658.htm

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