Genetically Altered Bacteria Could Block Malaria Transmission
August 2, 2006 -- Scientists have discovered a way to help stop the spread of malaria by genetically altering a bacterium that infects about 80 percent of the world’s insects. Malaria is primarily transmitted through mosquito bites and kills more than a million people every year.
The ubiquitous Wolbachia bacteria are able to alter male insects so that they can only reproduce with female insects also infected with the bacteria, resulting in more infected offspring. Researchers believe that by using genetically altered Wolbachia bacteria, they could spread genes that leave mosquitoes unable to transmit the malaria parasite. Their research was published in the journal Genetics.
There are several National Academies reports on malaria control. The Institute of Medicine report Battling Malaria: Strengthening the U.S. Military Malaria Vaccine Program examines how to better integrate the military's malaria vaccine R&D programs and discusses areas that need further research. Saving Lives, Buying Time: Economics of Malaria Drugs in an Age of Resistance offers recommendations on maximizing the effectiveness of antimalarial drugs, emphasizing the use of artemisinin-based combination therapies and the creation of a global subsidy that would make these effective combination treatments affordable and widely available in nations heavily afflicted by the disease.
Microbial Threats to Health: Emergence, Detection, and Response discusses the current state of knowledge and policy pertaining to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases and urges the U.S. government play a significant role in building the capacity of poor countries to monitor, prevent, and respond to disease outbreaks. The National Research Council report Malaria Control During Mass Population Movements and Natural Disasters reviews recent scientific literature relevant to establishing malaria control programs in situations involving forced migration, conflict, and other emergencies.