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A fire brigade against mosquitoes: New technology can protect against the spread of tropical diseases

Date: 5.6.2023 

In an article published in the journal Biotechnology Advances, a consortium of researchers from Frankfurt and Giessen at the LOEWE Center TBG shows a way out of this dilemma between nature and health protection with a new technology they have developed. Their common goal is to build a kind of fire brigade against tropical diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.

Kredit: Wikimedia Commons, James Gathany, CDC, public domain.Efficient monitoring of the spread of mosquitoes and viruses is initially made possible by the genetic analysis of water samples, so-called "environmental DNA." For this purpose, the team has already sequenced the genomes of various immigrant mosquitoes to develop procedures that enable reliable detection similar to a PCR test. In a second step, the new technology of "RNA interference" is used.

"In this process, the mosquito larvae in the distribution area are provided with food that contains double-stranded ribonucleic acids, or RNAs for short. These important information and function carriers, which are found in every cell of living organisms, then unfold their effect via the larvae's intestine and switch off some of their genes that are important for survival," explains Miklós Bálint, Professor of Functional Environmental Genomics at the Justus Liebig University Giessen, the LOEWE Center TBG and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center Frankfurt, one of the first authors of the study.

The advantages of this method: "The RNA molecules can be produced in such a way that they only act against the respective mosquito species and do not endanger other insect species or humans. Furthermore, no toxic residues are left in the environment during their degradation. And with this method, there will be no genetically modified mosquitoes capable of reproducing," Bálint says.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons, James Gathany, CDC, public domain.





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