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Scientists genetically modify mosquitoes to resist all dengue viruses



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A team working with Professor Omar Akbari from UC-San Diego has developed mosquitoes that ward off the four known times of the dengue virus.


Erik Jepsen / UC San Diego Publications

Getting a mosquito bite can be more than annoying. If the pest is infected with a virus like dengue, it can cause a fever, rash and severe pain, or even kill you. But a team of researchers could have a solution. Scientists from the Australian National Science Agency CSIRO and the University of California-San Diego have developed the first genetically modified mosquitoes that are resistant to the spread of all four types of dengue virus.

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The mosquito Aedes aegypti spreads the dengue virus.


Erik Jepsen / UC San Diego Publications

"Recent advances in genetic engineering have made it possible to produce mosquitoes with reduced vector competence that limit their ability to acquire and transmit pathogens," scientists said in a research report published on Thursday in the medical journal PLOS Pathogens has been published.

Scientists modified female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the antibody against the virus. The mosquitoes don't seem to be able to spread any form of debilitating disease.

"As soon as the female mosquito takes blood, the antibody is activated and expressed – that's the trigger," said the co-author of the study and UC-San Diego professor Omar S. Akbari said in a statement. "The antibody is able to inhibit the replication of the virus and prevent it from spreading in the mosquito, thereby preventing its transmission to humans. This is an effective approach."

Research could eventually change the lives of millions of people. According to the study, more than half of the world's population is at risk of contracting the virus. 390 million infections are documented annually.

"We are at an early stage of testing to neutralize mosquitoes against dengue and a suite of other viruses such as zika, yellow fever and chikungunya," said Akbari.

The mosquitoes in the study were tested in the CSIRO bio-containment station, which was specially developed for the research of dangerous infectious agents.

The study found that the new genetically modified mosquitoes outnumber the mosquitoes armed with the Wolbachia pipientis bacterium approved by the EPA in 2017 .


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