Researchers Turn Mosquitoes Into Flying Vaccinators

MosquitoesThanks scientists for taking mosquitoes from an “annoying” level to now a plot line for a super-villain. Martin Enserink writes on ScienceNOW:

Here’s a study to file under “unworkable but very cool.” A group of Japanese researchers has developed a mosquito that spreads vaccine instead of disease. Even the researchers admit, however, that regulatory and ethical problems will prevent the critters from ever taking wing — at least for the delivery of human vaccines.

Scientists have dreamed up various ways to tinker with insects’ DNA to fight disease. One option is to create strains of mosquitoes that are resistant to infections with parasites or viruses, or that are unable to pass the pathogens on to humans. These would somehow have to replace the natural, disease-bearing mosquitoes, which is a tall order. Another strategy closer to becoming reality is to release transgenic mosquitoes that, when they mate with wild-type counterparts, don’t produce viable offspring. That would shrink the population over time.

The new study relies on a very different mechanism: Use mosquitoes to become what the scientists call “flying vaccinators.” Normally, when mosquitoes bite, they inject a tiny drop of saliva that prevents the host’s blood from clotting. The Japanese group decided to add an antigen-a compound that triggers an immune response-to the mix of proteins in the insect’s saliva.

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  • RONIN

    I admit I don't have much of an argument against this, not knowing shit about genetic engineering. I just know hate the idea of it.

  • 5by5

    We really want to leave dosage up to the random chance of some bug with a brain the size of a speck of dust biting you? What happens when several of them bite you?

    This is one of those “when smart people come up with dumbass ideas” things, isn't it?

    Gee, this is as good an idea as letting Chinese chemical companies and fertilizer manufacturers dump their “fluoride” into our water!

  • ebwolf

    I can't see how this could be used as an effective tool for vaccination.
    It would, however, be ideal for spreading biological weapons among a population.

  • Tweedle

    This could only be used for nefarious reasons. First is there a way to control dosage? And then it is not reliable. It's like a car bomb, hit and miss.

  • tonyviner

    This means we (read: they) could load up a bunch of these mosquitoes with AIDS and send them to the Middle East, they probably deserve something like that. Or, better yet, we could send a bunch of them to the Pope and see how he feels about AIDS after that. Just throwing some ideas out there, I don't even want credit for them if they get used.

  • CB

    I bet the social control freaks think it's a great scheme. I don't like it.

  • Mike

    This could be a very effective method for preventing mosquito-borne diseases. It's a shame that ethical issues are blockading this from becoming a reality. Thankfully, there are still mosquito traps, such as Mosquito Magnets, to reduce mosquito populations.

    • RONIN

      Always a shame when those pesky ethics get in the way, huh?

  • RONIN

    Always a shame when those pesky ethics get in the way, huh?

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