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SCIENCE: Can GE parasites fight malaria mosqitoes?

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Mosquito bacteria identified in malaria battle
SOURCE: Reuters
AUTHOR: Phil Stewart
DATE:   14.05.2007

Mosquito bacteria identified in malaria battle

ROME (Reuters) - Scientists in Italy say they have identified a
potential weapon against malaria living inside the blood-sucking
mosquitoes that spread the disease -- their internal bacteria.

Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite, kills at least a
million people annually. Most of the victims are young children in sub-
Saharan Africa.

With attempts to completely eradicate mosquitoes or create a vaccine so
far unsuccessful, the Italian scientists set out to find any bacteria
that lived symbiotically inside the pests.

Such bacteria could potentially be genetically altered later to attack
the malaria parasite when it reaches the mosquito, said Daniele
Daffonchio at the Universita degli Studi di Milano, one of five Italian
universities behind the research.

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Science on Monday, the team said it identified one candidate -- a
bacteria called Asaia, which is found throughout the mosquito's body.

That includes the mosquito's gut and saliva gland as well as its
reproductive organs, meaning that the altered bacteria could spread to
mosquito offspring.

"Instead of spraying chemical or biological pesticides, you could use
this symbiotic bacteria that is passed on," Daffonchio said. "You don't
have to spray every year."

Daffonchio said research into modifying bacteria like Asaia was being
conducted to battle the deadly Chagas disease.

Chagas, spread by a beetle, can lead to a range of problems from heart
disease to digestive tract malfunctions, and kills tens of thousands of
people a year in Latin America.

Malaria has become resistant to some drugs, and work on a vaccine has
been slow.

Malaria also is intertwined with the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Recent
research showed that people with malaria are more likely to transmit to
sex partners the virus that causes AIDS.

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