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GM bacterium offers way to block malaria

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-09 07:11

Organism grown inside mosquitoes' bodies stops development of infectious parasite

Chinese scientists may have found a way to stop mosquitoes from spreading malaria, which kills one child every two minutes according to the World Health Organization.

Malaria affects between 200 and 300 million people worldwide every year according to the WHO. Infection is caused by Plasmodium, a parasite that is transmitted through mosquito bites.

A symbiotic bacterium that grows inside the bodies of mosquitoes was discovered by a team at the Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology in Shanghai, and was genetically modified to carry anti-malaria genes that arrest the development of the parasites in the insects' intestinal tracts.

"The bacteria proliferate rapidly in the intestinal tracts of mosquitoes after they take in human blood and thus the ability to inhibit the development of the parasites will increase dramatically," said Wang Sibao, head of the research team at the institute, a branch of the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences.

More important, the bacteria can be spread among mosquitoes quickly and widely during mating, and can be passed on to the next generation.

"When mosquitoes with such bacteria lay eggs in water, bacteria stuck to the surface of their eggs will propagate in the water and be ingested by the hatched larvae of the other mosquitoes, meaning that the capability of inhibiting the spread of the disease can be passed to other mosquitoes rapidly," Wang said.

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