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Genetically engineered mosquitoes show resistance to dengue fever virus

process of self-destruction happens only after the virus has already replicated and been transmitted; however, the researchers found a way to control and speed up the process. They accomplished this by cloning a section of the virus' RNA and injected two inverse copies of it into mosquito embryos. The copies formed a double-stranded RNA, which, as expected, bound with dicer-2 and was chopped up. The virus never had the opportunity to replicate. As a result, they could "inoculate" mosquitoes with a form of the virus that would essentially be benign.

Joining James on the study, funded by a 2001 grant from the National Institutes of Health, were researchers from Colorado State University and from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

James and his colleagues performed tests on a family of mosquitoes descended from one of the original embryos that survived the procedure. They found that the vast majority of that family was highly resistant to dengue infection. They also were able to detect the engineered RNA in the mosquitoes, a sign that the genetic alteration had been successful and passed down through reproduction. Furthermore, when that genetic modification was reversed, the mosquitoes were as susceptible to the virus as they had been before the procedure.

Dengue fever is endemic in more than 100 countries in Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. The virus is transmitted to people by mosquitoes of the species Aedes aegypti. The World Health Organization estimates 50 million cases of dengue infection each year. Approximately 20,000 people die annually from the disease.

James, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, and of molecular biology and biochemistry, has made a number of significant advances on genetic approaches to interrupt malaria parasite and dengue virus transmission by mosquitoes. He has received a number of international awards for his research
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Source:University of California - Irvine


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