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Infertility gene in mosquitoes to curb malaria

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London: For the first time, researchers led by the Imperial College London, have genetically modified malarial mosquitoes so that they carry a gene that disrupts egg production in female mosquitoes.

They used a technology called “gene drive” to ensure the gene for infertility is passed down at an accelerated rate to offspring, spreading the gene through a population over time and raising the possibility of reducing the spread of disease.

Within a few years, the spread could drastically reduce or eliminate local populations of the malaria, carrying mosquito species.

The mosquito species Anopheles gambiae is a major carrier of malaria parasites in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 per cent of annual malaria deaths occur.

Malaria infects over 200 million people each year and causes more than 430,000 deaths.

“Scientists have been trying to tackle malaria for more than 100 years. If successful, this technology has the potential to substantially reduce the transmission of malaria,” said study co-author professor Andrea Crisanti.

Normally, each gene variant has 50 per cent chance of being passed down from parents to their offspring.

In the team’s experiments with Anopheles gambiae, the gene for infertility was transmitted to more than 90 per cent of both male and female mosquitoes’ offspring.

The technique uses recessive genes so that many mosquitoes will inherit only one copy of the gene.

Two copies are needed to cause infertility, meaning that mosquitoes with only one copy are carriers, and can spread the gene through a population.

This is the first time the technique has been demonstrated in Anopheles gambiae.

The team targeted three different fertility genes and tested each for their suitability for affecting a mosquito population through gene drive, demonstrating the strength and flexibility of the technique to be applied to a range of genes.

“As with any new technology, it will be at least 10 more years before gene drive malaria mosquitoes could be a working intervention,” added professor Austin Burt from Imperial’s department of life sciences.

There are roughly 3,400 different species of mosquitoes worldwide.

“While Anopheles gambiae is an important carrier of malaria, it is only one of around 800 species of mosquito in Africa, so suppressing it in certain areas should not significantly impact the local ecosystem,” noted lead author Dr Tony Nolan.

The team aims to improve the expression of their gene drive elements. Exploring target genes is also helping the researchers to learn more about basic mosquito biology.

The results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.(ians)

(picture credit:upload.wikimedia.org)

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30% Higher Risk Of Heart Failure Linked with Malaria

The findings were presented at the ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology in Paris

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Malaria, Heart failure, disease
FILE - A female Aedes aegypti mosquito is shown in this Center for Disease Control photograph. VOA

Malaria infection is linked to 30 per cent higher risk of heart failure, a new research has warned.

The mosquito-borne infection affects more than 219 million people worldwide each year, according to the 2018 statistics of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We have seen an increase in the incidence of malaria cases and what is intriguing is that we have seen the same increase in cardiovascular disease in the same regions,” said the first author of the study, Philip Brainin, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Herlev-Gentofte University Hospital in Denmark.

“Even though we have taken preventive measures to decrease the malaria numbers, it remains a major burden,” Brainin said.

Mission Delhi, STEMI, Heart Attack
The Mission Delhi aims to provide care to STEMI, a very serious type of heart attack, patients. Pixabay

The researchers used Danish nationwide registries to identify patients with a history of malaria infection between January 1994 and January 2017. The mean age of patients in the study was 34 and 58 per cent of the subjects were male.

Around 4,000 malaria cases were identified, with 40 per cent having plasmodium falciparum, a parasite transmitted through mosquito bites that is responsible for the majority of severe malaria cases in humans.

The 11-year follow-up of patients revealed 69 cases of heart failure, which were very high as compared to the general population, and 68 cases of cardiovascular death, which were considered within normal range.

“These patients had a 30 per cent increased likelihood of developing heart failure over the follow-up time,” Brainin said.

More research will be needed to further validate the findings, but recent studies have found that malaria could be a contributor to functional and structural changes in the myocardium, which is the muscle tissue of the heart.

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Experimental studies have also shown that malaria may affect the blood pressure regulatory system causing hypertension, which is a contributor to heart failure.

Malaria can also affect vascular pathways that cause inflammation in the heart, which could lead to fibrosis and then heart failure.

According to the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), a combination of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and coronary artery disease are among the most common risk factors for heart failure.

The findings were presented at the ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology in Paris.

Among the high malaria burden countries, India has made substantial progress in disease control. The malaria burden has declined by over 80 per cent — malaria cases came down to 0.39 million in 2018 from 2.03 million cases in 2000. Malaria deaths in India have declined by over 90 per cent — from 932 deaths in 2000 to 85 in 2018, according to Indian Council of Medical Research. (IANS)