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A transgenic mosquito flashes its glowing green eyes -- Image courtesy
Making healthier mosquitoes may hold the key to a final cure for a devastating disease

A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has created genetically engineered mosquitoes that are resistant to the malaria-causing parasite. Recent tests conducted by the researchers, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, indicate that the new strain of mosquitoes is hardier than its malaria-carrying brethren, suggesting that they could outlive and eventually replace the disease-bearing variety of mosquito if introduced in the wild.

One of the authors of the study, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Jason Rasgon from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, assured the BBC in an interview that the project is still in its early stages. It could be a decade before the project culminates in the release of genetically altered mosquitoes into the environment, he said.

Rasgon and his associates have demonstrated that their "transgenic malaria-resistant mosquitoes" have a fitness advantage over other mosquitoes when feeding on blood infected with plasmodium parasites. In ordinary mosquitoes, the parasites live in the insect's gut and are passed on in the saliva of an infected insect each time it "bites," or takes a new blood meal. The transgenic mosquitoes carry a gene that makes them resistant to the malaria parasite, and new tests show that they can outlive natural disease-bearing mosquitoes, as well. Along with the plasmodium resistance gene, the researchers also inserted a gene to give the mosquitoes fluorescent green eyes, making it easier to distinguish them from the ordinary strain.

Rasgan acknowledges that while the research is promising, difficult questions still need to be answered, including addressing important "social, ethical and legal issues associated with releasing transgenic organisms into the environment."

An estimated 300 million people worldwide contract malaria each year, resulting in up 1.5 million deaths. Efforts to control malaria mosquitoes have reduced the geographic areas where the disease in rampant. Malaria outbreaks are now largely confined to Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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Overlooked mosquito biting ?
By shady3005 on 3/22/2007 5:28:51 AM , Rating: 2
I guess they will become even more menace than normal mosquitos.. they will still bite and bcoz of theie hardy nature , conventional anti-mosquitos may prove to be inaffective... they will spread even more ...

Havent they overlooked this aspect ?

RE: Overlooked mosquito biting ?
By Bruce 1337 on 3/22/2007 5:41:29 AM , Rating: 4
Yeah, just what we need... hardier mosquitoes with glowing green eyes. If they can genetically alter them to be resistant to malaria, why can't they just create mosquitoes that don't bite humans?

RE: Overlooked mosquito biting ?
By TSS on 3/22/2007 6:26:39 AM , Rating: 5
it has its advantages though, think about it. how many nights have you been awake in bed trying to shut out that annoying humming noise of that friggin mosquito? and you can NEVER find the bugger, untill the lights go out again and he hovers around your ear.

2 bright green spots flying around in the dark might help a little then.

only thing to wait for now is for comic artists to read this and start drawing splinter cell-mosquito's with night-vision goggles :P

RE: Overlooked mosquito biting ?
By alienbibin on 3/22/2007 6:45:42 AM , Rating: 2
Mosquitos require blood for their reproduction..i guess. Thats y only females bite. So if u alter that, the altered ones cant reproduce..!!! So the genetic modification cannot be spread to new mosquitos.

RE: Overlooked mosquito biting ?
By oTAL on 3/22/2007 6:52:39 AM , Rating: 4
I'd rather have ten mosquito bites from this species than a single mosquito bite from a plasmodium infected mosquito... but maybe that just me....

RE: Overlooked mosquito biting ?
By silver on 3/22/2007 7:09:44 AM , Rating: 2
I sure wish the idiots in Washington would pass a law stopping anyone from monkeying around with bugs outside a lab. Someone decided they needed to release a bunch of "lady bug" beetles in west Tennessee about 4 years ago and our home's (located in south central Tennessee) been swarming with them ever since !

RE: Overlooked mosquito biting ?
By spartan014 on 3/22/2007 7:06:47 AM , Rating: 2
hm... have you seen the movie Mimic? how genetically modified bugs become a menace. nothing dramatic as that, still these things can become a problem as he said.

RE: Overlooked mosquito biting ?
By DFranch on 3/22/2007 8:47:47 AM , Rating: 2
That is the movie that came immediately to mind when I started reading this story. I just couldn't remember the name.

By CascadingDarkness on 3/22/2007 1:31:37 PM , Rating: 2
You guys forget though, while of course this will cause there to be huge human size buggers. They will thankfully have glowing green eyes, so at least we have an advantage in catching them before they eat all the homeless in the subways. =P

RE: Overlooked mosquito biting ?
By scrapsma54 on 3/25/2007 3:16:48 PM , Rating: 2
That means it dosen't change the fact mosquitoes are faggots.

VERY bad idea
By mindless1 on 3/22/2007 7:51:56 AM , Rating: 4
It is extremely short sighted, even reckless to release genetically altered insects that are more hardy than those already in the ecosystem. What happens if they eventually become another carrier of disease but now, immune to the disease they carry? What happens if they overrun areas?

What happens if they all get giant sized and fat, can't fly anymore so they want sport utility vehicles to drive around in which drives up the price of gas even further?

It "could" be a positive result to release such altered insects, but it "could" have quite severe unforseen consequences, and it's not the kind of thing you can take back, as if we had them dominate and mostly replace then what would we do to get rid of them?? Spray the whole world with insecticides? That may have even worse consequences.

We are at a very dangerous point in human evolution, having the ability to do things that we may not have the ability to UNDO. Like a toddler that is learning to walk, we want to do so much more, but messing with nature is a very risky venture that we can't afford until we have another ecosystem we can flee to when, not if, we eventually make a big mistake.

RE: VERY bad idea
By AntiM on 3/22/2007 8:51:17 AM , Rating: 2
I totally agree. We can't possibly know the ramifications of releasing such an organism into the environment. If things don't go as planned, there's no way to reverse it.

RE: VERY bad idea
By Creig on 3/22/2007 9:00:31 AM , Rating: 3
I'm sure they'd simply take the plasmodium infected mosquito, engineer it into an even GREATER menace (but one that will still displace the old version) and release the new, improved end of humanity into the wild.

Problem solved. No more old version.

/end sarcasm

RE: VERY bad idea
By ThisSpaceForRent on 3/22/2007 9:06:46 AM , Rating: 3
I don't know if messing with nature is such a bad thing. I mean the Africanized Honey Bee thing worked out okay didn't it?

RE: VERY bad idea
By SoCalBoomer on 3/22/2007 12:16:54 PM , Rating: 2
There was no genetic alterations with the Africanized Honey Bees. Interbreeding, yes (which is also Nature's way of mixing up the genes, when they can get mixed up), but not "messing with nature" as we're talking about with these green-eyed-monsters. :D

RE: VERY bad idea
By typo101 on 3/22/2007 5:52:06 PM , Rating: 2
Ok, so we used the natural way to genetically design a species. Either way it was human meddling... and it was humans that paid for it!

By the way, whatever happened to the killer bees? Last I heard they were slowly traveling north and were going to take over all of north america.

RE: VERY bad idea
By Scabies on 3/22/2007 10:08:54 AM , Rating: 2
I saw those green eyes and read about the mosquitos being "hardier"
..all I could think of was "braaaiins"

Perhaps there is a mistranslation, in that these mosquitos are hardier against disease only, and have the same average life-span as ordinary mosquitos. Then again, who's to say the two cant crossbreed and we have immune carriers (as others have mentioned)
What they really need to do is engineer an insect that preys on more malicious bugs, such as the tsetse fly and the mosquito. Parasites suck overall, lets just do away with them.

RE: VERY bad idea
By glenn8 on 3/22/2007 11:29:10 AM , Rating: 2
It "could" be a positive result to release such altered insects, but it "could" have quite severe unforseen consequences, and it's not the kind of thing you can take back, as if we had them dominate and mostly replace then what would we do to get rid of them?? Spray the whole world with insecticides? That may have even worse consequences.

Skinner: Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.
Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?
Skinner: No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.
Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?
Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!
Skinner: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

Malaria KILLS 1 Million each year!
By paydirt on 3/22/2007 9:06:05 AM , Rating: 1
Some of you may not know this, but malaria KILLS 1 MILLION people in Africa each year. Kind makes your environmental arguments pale a bit in comparison...?

RE: Malaria KILLS 1 Million each year!
By therealnickdanger on 3/22/2007 9:44:48 AM , Rating: 4
Sounds like we should stop dicking around with genetics and start spraying DDT.

RE: Malaria KILLS 1 Million each year!
By oTAL on 3/22/2007 12:43:50 PM , Rating: 2
My humble opinion is that with the required testing and than some more, this could be a better solution than spraying chemicals around large areas which will NEVER provide a lasting solution...
It is possible we mess up by introducing a new species... but is is possible we don't. If we do, which would be regrettable, we would still learn something.
By spraying DDT we are, by definition, messing up... and learning nothing...

RE: Malaria KILLS 1 Million each year!
By dgingeri on 3/22/2007 2:59:52 PM , Rating: 3
DDT has never actually been shown to transfer up the food table.

There were claims back in the 60's that it caused the egg shells of certain bird to get thinner, but that was totally debunked in the 80's, and the one study that showed that was revealed to be faked. Those 'scientists' doing that study actually fed the birds a diet low in calcium so that they would get bad results.

DDT is as safe, and more effective, compared to any bug poison we use today. It gets broken down in the digestive tracks of any mammal and causes only small side effects at semi large doses and only becomes fatal at very, very large doses, as in more than 50g per 1kg of the subject's weight. So a 15kg bird would have to consume 750g of the stuff to die from it and 150g of it to have any small side effects, within 24 hours. long term exposure of small amounts has been shown to cause no side effects whatsoever in birds, lizards, or mammals.

By Magius on 3/22/2007 7:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
What about beneficial insects? It doesn't discriminate, does it?

By mindless1 on 3/23/2007 2:05:01 PM , Rating: 2
So you propose to make the ecosystem that all of the planet depends on to survive, a giant lab experiment in case we learn something? What would we learn? On the one hand, we might learn "it worked as we expected", there's not such a great depth of furthering knowledge to have this happen. The more significant learning would come from more drastic changes, which with everything interdependent as it is, could even mean a catastrophic extinction of many species, maybe us too.

It's hard to see how even the 1st world countries would deal with this kind of problem should it arise, but what about those countries too impoverished, or uncaring, to provide the malaria treatments that already exist?
Are they any more likely to be able to handle NEW problems?

Who do the dead talk to? I guess we could wrap up a Blue-ray disc and shoot it out into space for aliens to find, but any such aliens already advanced enough to find it, and decypher it, may have already gained this level of insight about ecosystem meddling.

Self serving
By typo101 on 3/22/2007 6:08:05 PM , Rating: 2
Seems to me this solution is looking at things the wrong way. Mosquitoes are going about their business trying to breed (like all life forms) and in doing so they happen to spread a HUMAN disease to other HUMANS! Were not doing mosquitoes any favors by altering their genes.

I would hate to sound heartless, but we have a big enough population as it is. If we let the disease run its course (sure we can work on treatments in the meantime) we might end up being immune as a species. The actual natural way.

Yes, I might change my tune if I contracted malaria, but thats life.

RE: Self serving
By tigen on 3/22/2007 7:06:17 PM , Rating: 2
We would never be immune as a species without either altering our own genes or sterilizing anyone who isn't already immune.

See how much traction that will get. I recommend you write your congressperson. When that fails, we can form a vigilante anti-malaria militia and go around forcibly testing and sterilizing people. I'll join you. It's for the good of the species after all.

RE: Self serving
By typo101 on 3/22/2007 8:47:48 PM , Rating: 2
Never is a little strong. Just like "species" is strong too strong of a word when I used it, but you get the point. I'm sure there many viruses that once plagued humans but just aren't an issue anymore. We wouldn't know because we have only been categorizing viruses for so long.

But yes, natural immunity is a very unrealistic goal, which is why I'm not against treatment or developing our own vaccine.

But my real point was that I think we should leave other species alone. This is our battle.

BTW. thanks for taking my passive point of view to its very aggressive conclusion. Thats exactly where I was going with this, sterilizing people.

RE: Self serving
By mindless1 on 3/23/2007 2:11:43 PM , Rating: 2
Not necessarily. In the areas of the world that most need resistance, survival of the fittest could result in it happening, eventually. That is a cruel way to let nature take it's course though, but can we really justify meddling with the environment when we can't even bother to garner up the real support necessary to feed, immunize (against other things), educate, etc? It almost reeks of arrogance, "you can't have food but we'll sell you some mutant mosquitos".

Infertility ???
By crystal clear on 3/22/2007 8:59:48 AM , Rating: 2
Find ways to make mosquitos INFERTILE via some chemical spray.
That solves your problem-they will eventually die out & reproduce no more.

RE: Infertility ???
By bhieb on 3/22/2007 10:04:56 AM , Rating: 2
Didn't they already suceed at this sort of thing. I remember reading about genetically altered mosq. that would pass on a gene of infertility. Now that is something I can get on board with. No "heartier" mosq. rather just breed them into extinction.

Although this is DT so I am sure some wise as$ will reply with how the mosq. could be a vital member of the eco system and the world might collapse if we caused them to go extinct.

RE: Infertility ???
By True Strike on 3/22/2007 12:25:02 PM , Rating: 1
Nah, causing the extinction of another species should definitely be taken lightly.
Especially because I think they are plotting to do the same thing to us! You can see it in those beady little eyes; they are working on something. We need to launch a pre-emptive strike before it is too late.
Now we just have work up the reports that say they have WMDs, and scare the public into backing the action.

Death By Mosquito.
By Mitch101 on 3/22/2007 9:42:55 AM , Rating: 2
What about mosquitos injected with a bad batch of anti biotics.

How exactly do you recall a bad batch of mosquitos?

By wingless on 3/22/2007 10:56:32 AM , Rating: 2
Sure they stop the spread of one disease, but they'll end up being highly effective at another.

Its amazing to believe we humans are so arrogant that we would try to change nature straight up with a little tinkering of genetics. We'll make a plague we don't know how to stop because the people doing this kind of work usually tend to be more short-sighted and narrow minded than most average people.

Whatever you do, don't try to make BETTER mosquitoes !!!!

Sounds good at first...
By Comdrpopnfresh on 3/22/2007 11:35:46 AM , Rating: 2
The problems here are that the mosquito may carry the virus, and the fact that it lives longer would mean that it would spread more. the questions of how the virus would react to a resistant carrier may also be a problem. Maybe the current strains would be suppressed, but maybe theres one out there thats much worse that could catch a ride on the new bugs. If they were resistant and lived less than normal mosquitoes, and the traits given to them by the scientists were dominant I'd say its a good idea.

By aju on 3/22/2007 1:11:54 PM , Rating: 2
Man is getting way out of balance. The more intelligent we get the less wisdom we have. We get so impressed with our knowledge that we forget how really little we actually understand about the planet we live on. I would venture to say that the risk of introducing a customized living organism that can reproduce into the ecosystem would be foolish at best. How can anyone actually know the outcome? History has proven this is numerous times and we ignore it. The things that have been done in the interest of bettering our lives that have had negative or even disastrous effects on our world have been well documented. Scientists just refuse to use wisdom in the proper ratio with their knowledge. Can they really say that when they release this mutant mosquito into the world that it will only benefit mankind without harming anything else? Can they really say that it will only benefit man and not some other organism that is being contained by the plasmodium parasite? If we upset the balance in nature, we could unleash our own destruction.

By knowom on 3/22/2007 6:17:19 PM , Rating: 2
I say just do it and see what happens it's time for war man vs insect!

sounds like an awesome idea
By senbassador on 3/23/2007 3:59:41 PM , Rating: 2
However the buearocracy and red tape, plus environmentalists will keep them from getting released. Just like with DDT when they had it banned for no good reason, resulting in millions of needless deaths, someone's going to come up with a reason why genetically alerted mosquitoes are so bad to keep them from getting released.

Not that there can't be potential problems with their early release, I just don't want us to get caught up in the irrational fear of erring on the side of releasing them too early than too late.

scared of mosquitos
By AnotherGuy on 3/22/2007 2:54:52 PM , Rating: 1
I think the comments on this news were one of the funniest ever on DT and made me laugh out loud... relle funny.

and at the end i see people scared of mosquitos... what are they thinking? Half Life ? giant mosquitos eating plp? :)


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