Zika virus gets transmitted to humans from female mosquito bites.
In 2016, the World Health Organization called the Zika virus epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern” due to the virus causing birth defects for pregnant women in addition to neurological problems. Since then, researchers have wrestled with different strategies for controlling the spread of Zika virus, which gets transmitted to humans from female mosquito bites.
One approach, which was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in May, will release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes into the Florida Keys in 2021 and 2022. These “suicide mosquitoes” are genetically-altered to produce female offspring that die before emerging into adults and therefore cannot bite humans and spread disease.
However, wiping out future generations of mosquitoes may cause environmental complications, such as potentially disrupting food chains. A new research study at the University of Missouri offers another option: genetically modifying mosquitoes to be resistant to Zika virus altogether.
Alexander Franz, an associate professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, collaborated with researchers at Colorado State University by using CRISPR gene-editing technology to produce mosquitoes that are unable to replicate Zika virus and therefore cannot infect a human through biting.
“We genetically manipulated these mosquitoes by inserting an artificial gene into their genome that triggers one of the immune pathways in the midgut to recognize and destroy the RNA genome of Zika virus,” Franz said. “By developing these mosquitoes that are resistant to the virus, the disease cycle is interrupted so transmission to humans can no longer take place.”
Franz added that the genetic modification is inheritable, so future generations of the altered mosquitoes would be resistant to Zika virus as well.
“We are interested in strategies for controlling insect vectors like mosquitoes that transmit various viruses affecting human health,” Franz said. “Public health experts suggest having a toolbox with different approaches available to tackle a virus such as Zika, and unfortunately right now there are limited options. There is no vaccine for the Zika virus available and spraying insecticides has become ineffective since the mosquitoes can develop resistance, so we are simply trying to expand the toolbox and provide a solution by genetically modifying the mosquitoes to become Zika-resistant while keeping them alive at the same time.”
Franz’ research is designed to help prevent another outbreak of Zika virus disease from occurring.
“If you can ever find a way to block the transmission of a pathogen that negatively affects humans, that is good news,” Franz said. “We have shown this is a viable option for genetically modifying mosquitoes in a lab setting. There would need to be thorough discussions about regulatory compliance to see if this can be a solution out in the field down the road, and who knows when another Zika outbreak might happen in the future, which is why this research is so important.”
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Genetically modified mosquitoes
- The EPA Just Approved the Release of Mosquito-Killing Insects Grown in the Lab
For more than 4,000 years, humans have battled mosquito-borne diseases, and now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a line of lab-grown mosquitoes designed to reduce the ...
- Genetically Engineered Bacteria New Weapon Against Malaria Transmission
By genetically modifying a bacterium found in the midgut of the mosquitoes, they were able to inhibit the development of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, inside the mosquito.
- Des Moines' mosquito population could spike soon. How can you protect yourself from bug bites?
More:Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes may soon be buzzing in Florida and California. Here's why. Mosquito populations in Iowa, he said, vary year over year, but typically spike from ...
- Mosquito birth control project proposed to help save endangered native birds
A mosquito birth control project is a step closer to getting underway. But the idea of introducing millions of the critters is bugging some in the community. The Conversation talked to DLNR’s Cynthia ...
- Mosquitoes sniff out hosts infected with certain viruses, researchers find
In the mosquito universe, an irresistible scent is one produced by two dangerous viruses after hijacking a human body, a new study found. The viruses that cause Zika and dengue fever alter how ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Genetically modified mosquitoes
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- New 988 Lifeline suicide hotline launches Saturday July 16th
But after years of therapy and self reflection, he’s grateful his suicide attempt was unsuccessful. “When I look back on that, so much of my life I would have missed if that had happened and I ...
- Delhi Woman Dies By Suicide Allegedly Over "14 Forced Abortion"
A 33-year-old woman allegedly committed suicide after being "forced to undergo abortion 14 times" by her live-in partner in a span of eight years, police said on Thursday citing a suicide note.
- Suicide prevention hotline changes to three digit number
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Saturday is a big day for mental health nationwide as the Suicide Prevention Hotline changes from ten digits to three. Designed to be used like 911, dialing 988 will connect you ...
- Universal suicide hotline rolls out this week
(CNN) - A new universal suicide crisis hotline is launching across the United States this week. The phone number is 988 and will be available in every state starting Saturday. Year after year ...
- Suicide Prevention Line, 988, goes live July 16
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - After two years of planning and preparation, the new three-digit suicide prevention line, 988, will go live on Saturday, July 16. In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 ...