This is definitely a good news public health story. So why do I have that nagging feeling that in a year or two or a five we might be reporting it as one with unintended consequences?
I hope not. Here it is:
Mosquitoes genetically engineered to resist infection with a malaria parasite outbreed their normal cousins and might be used to help control malaria, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
They said their study suggests that releasing such genetically altered insects could help battle malaria, which kills up to 3 million people a year around the globe, most of them small children.
Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore studied mosquitoes with an extra gene spliced in that helps stop them from transmitting the Plasmodium berghei parasite.
Previous studies have already shown that these mosquitoes are perfectly healthy.
Jacobs-Lorena and colleagues studied the mosquitoes as they bred in cages. The mosquitoes were allowed to feed on mice that had been infected with P. berghei, one of the parasites that causes malaria.
The transgenic mosquitoes were more fertile and less likely to die than normal, wild mosquitoes, they report in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
They also began to outbreed the normal mosquitoes.
“To our knowledge, no one has previously reported a demonstration that transgenic mosquitoes can exhibit a fitness advantage over nontransgenics,” the researchers wrote. (Reuters)
Good news, really. P. berghei doesn’t cause the worst kind of malaria, but it’s bad enough. This is definitely a promising breakthrough.
Definitely. Definitely. (So why do I keep hearing this little voice saying, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”?)