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Engineering Mosquitoes to be Flying Vaccinators

Sat, 03/20/2010 - 7:24am
Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog

Mosquitoes Engineered Into Flying Vaccinators by Emily Singer

Researchers in Japan have transformed mosquitoes into vaccine-carrying syringes by genetically engineering the insects to express the vaccine for leishmaniasis–a parasitic disease transmitted by the sandfly–in their saliva. According to a study in Insect Molecular Biology, mice bitten by these mosquitoes produced antibodies against the parasite. It’s not yet clear whether the immune response was strong enough to protect against infection.

“Following bites, protective immune responses are induced, just like a conventional vaccination but with no pain and no cost,” said lead researcher Shigeto Yoshida, from the Jichi Medical University in JapanYoshida, in a press release from the journal. “What’s more continuous exposure to bites will maintain high levels of protective immunity, through natural boosting, for a life time. So the insect shifts from being a pest to being beneficial.”

Researchers consider the project more of a proof of principle experiment than a viable public health option, at least for now.

Very cool.

Related: New and Old Ways to Make Flu VaccinesTreated Mosquito Nets Prevent Malariare-engineering mosquito so they cannot carry disease

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