New research has revealed information about how mosquitoes are able to fight off bacteria and disease-causing organisms such as the malaria parasite, Plasmodium spp, creating hopes that a mosquito could be genetically engineered so that it was no longer a carrier of the deadly disease.
Mosquitoes fight disease-causing organisms in a different way to humans. Humans produce antibodies that recognise pathogens in the body, while mosquitoes have genes that are programmed to make proteins which stick to germs and then create an immune response to fight the disease.
Researchers from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have published a paper in the journal PloS Biology that describes how the Anopheles gambiae mosquito’s gene AgDscam recognises a wide range of germs.
The gene has 101 regions that code for the proteins that create an immune response. They showed how by deactivating the gene, mosquitoes die at a greater rate from bacterial infections and that the numbers of malaria causing Plasmodium parasites increased by 65 percent in the insect’s gut.