A bite of life

Published: Thursday 15 August 1996

science continues to astonish. In a reversal of roles, a genetically engineered mosquito -- a handiwork of two uk-based scientists, Bob Sinden of the University of London's Imperial college and Julian Crampton of Liverpool University's School of Tropical Medicine -- will inject a vaccine against malaria into people it bites instead of the disease itself.

Likening the altered mosquito to a flying syringe, Sinden stated the objective of the research, which was publicised early last month, was to make the mosquito transfer a protein through its saliva which would act as a vaccine to immunise the person against malaria. The scientists have been successful, during test-tube experiments, in isolating the malaria gene and incorporating the same in the salivary gland of the mosquito where the parasite protein is made. In laboratory tests, it has been introduced in a mouse to prevent it from falling prey to malaria. The acid test now lies ahead.

The duo have to carry out experiments in a mosquito outside the test-tube so that it spits the parasite protein into the person it bites. And when this happens, the dreaded malarial disease may be stopped in its tracks.

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