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Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A genetic modifications that make mosquitos incapable of spreading malaria is reported in Science Advances this week, marking another step toward the use of gene drives to eliminate the parasitic disease. In the study, scientists from Imperial College London augmented a midgut gene of the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae to secrete two exogenous antimicrobial peptides — called magainin 2 and melittin — that hinder oocyst development in the malaria parasites Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium berghei. The modification, which is capable of efficient nonautonomous gene drive, markedly delays the emergence of infectious sporozoites while simultaneously reduces the life span of homozygous female transgenic mosquitoes, the researchers write. Modeling, meantime, indicates that propagation of the genetic modification via gene drives could break the malaria transmission cycle across different epidemiological scenarios "even if the effector itself is eventually replaced by resistant alleles because of the fitness cost that it imposes," the authors note. "This modification is already designed for gene drive and requires no further adjustment before deployment, while, at the same time, it is inert on its own and thus can be safely tested in an endemic setting under standard containment protocols."

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.