Scientists at the United Kingdom may soon achieve success on turning mosquitoes into a malaria vaccine delivery system. According to the new reports by the National Public Radio (NPR), US, a small clinical trial has been underway in the UK, trying to develop a system to use mosquitoes as a medium to delivery vaccines. The findings of the experiment, conducted on 26 participants, have been published in Science Translational Medicine.
The NPR explained the process by sharing the experience of one of the volunteers, Carolina Reid. Reportedly, she would put her arm over a cardboard box filled with 200 mosquitoes and cover it with a mesh to keep them in while they bite on her. A scientist would then cover her arm with a black cloth, as mosquitoes like to bite at night. “My whole forearm swelled and blistered,” said Carolina.
Due to the experiment, scientists were able to genetically modify parasites in order to deliver malaria vaccines through mosquito bites. University of Washington, Seattle physician and scientist Dr. Sean Murphy- who is also the lead author of the paper- explained that they used mosquitoes as if they were 1,000 small flying syringes.
The insects deliver live malaria-causing Plasmodium parasites that have been genetically modified to not get people sick.
Scientists have earlier tried to take help of insects to find cure for diseases caused by them. But, this is the first time Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) has been used to accomplish it.
The trial concluded that the modified parasites protected some of the participants from malaria infection for a few months. Apart from the advantage, the biggest problem that has occurred with using mosquitoes to deliver vaccines, is the effectiveness. The results show that 14 of 26 participants who were exposed to malaria got effected by the illness. This puts the mosquito vaccine delivery system hardly 50 percent effective.