Switch off the gene FREP1 reduces the susceptibility of mosquitoes to be infected by Plasmodium, a parasite that causes malaria in humans, according to a study published in the journal PLOS. The investigation determined that blocking this type of gene through the technique of editing genetic called Cas9 suppressed “significantly,” the infection of the mosquito with the Plasmodium parasite in humans and rodents.
This finding, developed by scientists from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (Maryland, USA), supports the potential of this technique to alter the genomes of wild mosquito populations to prevent the spread of malaria, a disease that kills per year to nearly 500,000 people around the world.
Within the body of a mosquito, the Plasmodium parasite undergoes a series of steps of infection before they reach the salivary gland of the mosquito, from where it spreads to humans who suffer a bite. This cycle of infection depends on the activity of several proteins of the infected mosquito.
Block the transmission
The tool developed by George Dimopoulos and his team offers new opportunities to study these proteins and to determine if you can lead to block the transmission of malaria.
However, the permanent inactivation of FREP1 in all stages and tissues of mosquitoes also resulted in costs of physical conditioning for the insects, including the reduction of feed capacity of blood, fertility lower, the lower hatching rate of eggs, reduced development, and reduced longevity after feeding on blood.
This raises the concern that mosquitoes with FREP1 permanently inactivated could not compete with mosquitoes without genetic mutation in nature with sufficient efficacy to block the transmission of malaria.
In this way, the researchers now are exploring ways to inactivate FREP1 in the gut of mosquitoes, the adult females only, with the hope of reducing the cost of fitness while maintaining the resistance to the malaria parasite.