Date: February 22, 2012
Abstract: The mosquito borne infection malaria has been a huge problem for US service people during war and deployments throughout the decades. Although the use of prophylactic antimalarials, bed nets and other preventive measures are well established in today’s modern military, the risk is still there and cases still occur.
In a recent report published in the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report published by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center shows that in 2011, 124 US military members were diagnosed with the parasitic infection.
This represents the third highest total of malaria cases since 2003.
Of the 124 cases reported in 2011, 91 cases (73%) were acquired in Afghanistan, while nearly a fifth were picked up in Africa and just a handful in Korea.
Plasmodium falciparum, the most serious and deadly strain of the parasite was identified in 23% of the cases. The most common species of malaria, Plasmodium vivax was identified in 29% of the cases. Nearly half of the cases were classified as “unspecified”.Other statistics presented in the report include: the vast majority of cases occurred in men (98%), active duty (87%), members of the Army (80%), white (72%) and in their 20s (63%) (Examine, 2012).
Title: Deadly Virus Increases Mosquito Blood Lust
Date: March 29, 2012
Abstract: Mosquitoes are already blood-sucking machines, but new research indicates that the dengue virus, which the mosquitoes transmit to humans, makes them even thirstier for blood.
The virus specifically turns on mosquito genes that make them hungrier for a blood meal; the activated genes also enhance mosquitoes' sense of smell, something that likely improves their feeding skills. The result is a mosquito better able to serve the virus by carrying it more efficiently to human hosts.
"The virus may, therefore, facilitate the mosquito's host-seeking ability, and could — at least theoretically — increase transmission efficiency, although we don't fully understand the relationships between feeding efficiency and virus transmission," study researcher George Dimopoulus, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a statement. "In other words, a hungrier mosquito with a better ability to sense food is more likely to spread dengue virus."
The virus doesn't hurt the mosquitoes that carry it, a specific species called Aedes aegypti, but it lives in them. When the mosquito bites a human, it spreads the deadly disease through its saliva. More than 2.5 billion people live in areas where dengue fever-infected mosquitoes live. The World Health Organization estimates that between 50 million and 100 million dengue infections occur each year.
The researchers analyzed the mosquito genes before and after being infected with the virus, finding changes in 147 genes. These post-infection genes make proteins that are involved in processes that include virus transmission, immunity, blood feeding and host seeking, they found.
"Our study shows that the dengue virus infects mosquito organs, the salivary glands and antennae that are essential for finding and feeding on a human host," Dimopoulus said. "This infection induces odorant-binding protein genes, which enable the mosquito to sense odors."
"We have, for the first time, shown that a human pathogen can modulate feeding-related genes and behavior of its vector mosquito, and the impact of this on transmission of disease could be significant," Dimopoulos said.
This is just one of many recent examples of a parasite taking control of an animal for its own benefit. Other examples include a fungus that turns ants into zombies and a virus that causes caterpillars to dissolve and then rain virus particles down on other potential hosts.The study was published today (March 29) in the journal PLoS Pathogens (LiveScience, 2012).
Title: GE Mosquito Release “Remains On Indefinite Hold” – But For How Long?
Date: May 11, 2012
Source: Friends of the Earth
Abstract: Last weekend the Keynoter newspaper in the Florida Keys reported that plans to release genetically engineered mosquitoes in Key West “remain on indefinite hold.” This came after an announcement by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District that this controversial experiment “will only take place once all necessary regulatory and ethical approvals have been obtained, from regulatory agencies at both federal and state level, based on the results of independent, rigorous, scientific review.”
FKMCD and its director, Michael Doyle, should be applauded for not rushing ahead with this experiment before receiving federal and state approval, or before these genetically engineered mosquitoes and their possible risks are independently and properly assessed.
The debate over which federal and state agencies would oversee the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the U.S. has been filled with confusion but is starting to become a bit clearer. Ever since the USDA stated back in November 2011 that it will not regulate the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, as originally expected, FKMCD and Oxitec (the creators of the GE mosquito) have been scrambling to find a federal agency that will take the lead. It appeared the federal agencies were playing a game of regulatory “hot potato,” each one passing on taking the leading role.
But just last week, Oxitec stated in a Bloomberg article that it has “opened an investigational new animal drug file with the Food and Drug Administration.” While this might sound wonky and bureaucratic, it is actually a telling move on the part of Oxitec -- one that starts to clarify if – and how - these genetically engineered mosquitoes will be regulated in the U.S.
In January 2009 the FDA came out with Guidance 187 which stated that the agency would regulate genetically engineered animals as “new animal drugs.” This idea originated in the Reagan administration and its’ Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, which stated that the U.S. didn’t need any new laws to regulate biotechnologies or their products --instead old laws could be interpreted in order to accommodate new technologies.
And so the FDA decided to use laws originally written to approve new animal drugs (think: vaccines for cattle, antibiotics added to chicken feed) to regulate the use of genetically engineered animals, and now insects. The FDA’s twisted logic reads like this: drugs change the composition and function of an animal; the genes inserted into an animal also change their composition and function; so ipso facto GE animals are new animal drugs. If this sounds like something out of a Kurt Vonnegut novel to you, you are not alone.
We have been fighting this wacky interpretation of how GE animals should be regulated for years. The FDA is also trying to approve a genetically engineered salmon, which would be the first-ever GE food animal, as a “new animal drug” as well. Yes, a fish we are supposed to eat is being approved as a new animal drug. And this classification makes even less sense for GE mosquitoes.
There are two overarching problems with using new animal drug laws to approve genetically engineered mosquitoes. First, classifying a genetically engineered mosquito as a ‘drug’ is the regulatory equivalent of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. These GE mosquitoes aren’t the same thing as, say, a new animal feed additive; an additive can’t reproduce in the wild, bite humans and spread disease, or fly to another part of town. Therefore the questions regulators would need to ask regarding risks are entirely different. So while the FDA might be able to determine the risks of an animal feed additive, that doesn’t mean it can do the same for GE mosquitoes. The FDA does not have the necessary expertise to judge the mosquitoes’ environmental effects and has a poor track record of collaborating with other agencies that could provide scientific and technical analysis. This is not the fault of the FDA, necessarily, since we can’t expect veterinary medicine experts to understand insect ecology. But it does mean our regulatory system has failed to keep up with new technologies and the current system is broken.
The second broad problem is the lack of transparency around new animal drug applications. As we have unfortunately learned through the FDA’s process for approving the GE salmon under these same laws, the public has little knowledge or input into the agency’s decisions; the FDA had the GE salmon application for over 10 years before it even announced the existence of the application andwhen it did, it was only because the application was close to final approval. The public only received information that the GE salmon company and the FDA deemed was not “confidential business information.”
With the current process, the FDA could approve these GE mosquitoes for release as an “investigational new animal drug” and the public would not know, nor would it have any data, until the decision has already been made. “Independent, rigorous, scientific review” cannot happen in secret, behind closed doors. That would be bad science, bad policy, and would set a bad precedent for how GE insects are regulated.
The indefinite delay of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys is a victory for the grassroots organizations in the Keys, but unfortunately it may only be temporary. Now that we know Oxitec has a file open with the FDA to approve its mosquitoes as an investigational new animal drug, approval could come at any time and the public would have no warning or input.
Using antiquated laws that are ill-equipped to deal with novel risks posed by GE insects would set a dangerous precedent here in the U.S. and abroad and should not be allowed to continue. The time has come to actually write laws that address the novel risks posed by genetically engineered animals and insects, and to develop proper risk assessment models to measure the dangers.
The only way to stop this experiment outright is for the Florida Keys
Mosquito Control District to announce it has cancelled its plans to release
genetically engineered mosquitoes or for the FDA to stand up for the Keys
residents and reject this application. If not, don’t expect this issue to
disappear any time soon (Friends of the Earth, 2012).
Title: Waging A Losing War Against Mosquitoes
Date: July 1, 2012
Source: CBS News
Abstract: The Fourth of July is a day for parades and fireworks and picnics and outdoor activities of every kind. Just don't forget to bring the mosquito repellant. Mosquitoes are the unwelcome guests at many an outdoor party, and not just because they're annoying. Tracy Smith reports our Cover Story:
They're as much a part of summer as watermelon and sunburns. Mosquitoes are found in every state, on every continent (except Antarctica). And for them, 2012 has already been a very good year.
"We had no winter in the Northeast this year, and so there's a lot of predictions from mosquito control experts that we're going to have a really huge season of high populations of mosquitoes, and so with that, more disease transmission," said Leslie Vosshall, who runs Rockefeller University's Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior in New York City. Along with her staff, she's trying to find out exactly how mosquitoes hunt humans.
"I love mosquitoes," said Vosshall. "I have completely fallen in love with mosquitoes. They're beautiful creatures. They have beautiful behaviors. But they're dangerous."
"Most people, if you said, 'Mosquitoes are beautiful,' would tell you you're crazy," said Smith.
"Exactly. I get that a lot," she laughed.
She's really not crazy - but her dedication to her work seems jaw-droppingly insane, especially around feeding time, when Vosshall sticks her arm into a mosquito cage: "These are hungry girls and some boys," she said. Vosshall needs healthy mosquitoes for her work, and this, she says, helps keep them that way.
Only female mosquitoes bite, and only then because they need the blood to make eggs.
There are several ways to feed lab mosquitoes: this way, Vosshall says, is the best, despite what it does to her arm. "I feel good," she said. "I've done my job."
The telltale welts are the body's reaction to the saliva mosquitoes inject to make your blood flow. Over time, her body has become accustomed to this routine. Still, there's nothing routine about her work.
"What's interesting is that the really dangerous disease-causing mosquitoes have acquired a taste for humans," she said. "So Anopheles gambiae, which spread malaria, the principle vector of malaria, prefers humans over all other animals."
Besides anopheles, some other mosquitoes high on the human misery list are the dengue fever carrier Aedes aegypti, that, in this country, is found mostly in the Southeast; and Culex pipiens, a carrier of West Nile virus, that can be found coast to coast. They, too, have a taste for us . . . and some of us are mosquito magnets.
Researcher Lindsay Bellani turns mosquitoes loose on a volunteer's bare arms. "We measure how many are trying to bite the person after five minutes," Bellani explained.
Scientists here are looking at what drives them wild - blood components, skin bacteria - so they can figure out a way to stymie the mosquitoes' incredible ability to find us.
"They're not working off of very much, but they do it so, so well," said Bellani, "and in some way I've developed a weird kind of respect for mosquitoes."
The CDC has respect for mosquitoes, too. The agency was created in 1946 to fight malaria, and while malaria's been all but wiped out in the U.S., there were more than 700 reported cases of the deadly West Nile virus here last year alone.
So in places like Fairfax County, Va., they keep a close eye on mosquito traps.
"I have a lot more respect for West Nile virus today than I ever had before," said Jorge Arias, who heads the program. He said he would've shown us the traps personally but it's hard for him to walk; he was infected with West Nile himself two years ago, and is still partially paralyzed as a result.
But he'd be the first to tell you that there are worse things than West Nile out there.
Kimberly King never gave mosquitoes a second thought until her five-year-old daughter Adreana was bitten by a mosquito carrying the rare Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, somewhere near their home south of Boston.
"We could have been swimming, we could have been hiking in the woods, we could have been fishing," said King. "We could have been sitting on the back porch. We could have been driving in the car."
The girl went to her mother saying she didn't feel well: "She seemed to have flu-like symptoms," said King. "And then within 24 hours of her first symptom, she was seizing."
After a week in intensive care it was clear that the little girl would not recover.
"We had to make the decision to take her off the life support," said King. "And we took her off the life support, she was in my arms. I was holding her as she died.
"They took her off all of her machines and her hoses in my arms, and they allowed me to help wash her up before they sent her down to the morgue."
Kimberly King buried her daughter on the day she would've started kindergarten. She's become a full-time advocate for mosquito repellant and control, as a commissioner at the Plymouth County Mosquito Control Project.
But she says she doesn't feel like the unlucky one in a million: "There were others before me, and unfortunately, there'll be others after me," she told Smith.
Still, death by mosquito is extremely rare in the U.S. In 2010 just over 100 people here died of mosquito-borne diseases. Those numbers would be higher, experts say, if not for aggressive mosquito control.
Shelley Redovan, executive director of Lee County Mosquito Control District, said her arsenal includes around a dozen aircraft that cover the 1,200-square-mile county, spraying for mosquito larvae that breed wherever there's standing water - which, down here, can be pretty much anywhere.
And in Florida, where the bugs naturally thrive, it's about more than public health.
"It used to be that tourists would come to Florida two months out of the year because that was the only time they didn't have that many mosquitoes," said Redovan. "But we have since been able to control them so we can have a tourist season 12 months out of the year."
"Some people might ask, if you can't reach it by ground, is it really a concern?" asked Smith. "Aren't those mosquitoes out there in the wild somewhere?"
"Ideally it would be nice if mosquitoes stayed where they hatch off, but coastal mosquitoes in particular are very strong fliers," said Redovan. "When they hatch there, they can easily fly 25 miles a day."
So the agency covers a wide area. To those who worry about environmental impact, Redovan said the spray is formulated to be toxic only to mosquitoes, and its effect: only temporary.
After every high tide and rainfall, and after every spray run, an agent checks ponds and puddles to see how many mosquito larvae have started life anew.
But with swarms able to regenerate in a matter of weeks, and with an average of two new mosquito transmitted diseases found here every year, the threat of the next epidemic is never far over the horizon.
When asked if mosquitoes could ever be wiped out, Vosshall said, "We haven't been successful so far, right? In the 1950s, we came up with insecticides that knocked the populations down a lot. But then the problem is, you'll always have a few mosquitoes that developed resistance."
"It's an arms race," said Vosshall. "We have to constantly come up with new insecticides to try to knock down the populations."
"Who's ahead? Asked Smith.
"Mosquitoes are ahead, unfortunately," Vosshall replied. "Mosquitoes are winning" (CBS News, 2012).
Title: Scientists Find Way To Eradicate Malaria Through Mosquito’s Stomach
Date: July 17, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: Researchers report they have found a way to kill malaria in mosquitoes by genetically modifying a bacterium commonly found in the insect’s mid-gut, according to a new study.
The bacterium, called Pantoea agglomerans, can be modified to secrete proteins that are toxic to the malaria parasite, but are not harmful to humans or the mosquito itself. In fact, the bacterium is so specific to targeting malaria that it does not even affect other bacteria in the mosquito’s gut, according to the researchers from Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, who conducted the study.
The bacterium is genetically engineered to attack malaria in multiple ways.
“There are not one, but several anti-malaria compounds the bacterium secretes,” explained Dr. Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, senior author of the study and a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Each acts by a different mechanism and makes it much more difficult for the parasite to develop a resistance to it.”
One of the compounds secreted by the bacteria, for example, inserts itself into the membrane of malaria parasite, essentially poking holes in the parasite’s protective outer layer and causing it to ‘leak out’ and die. Another one of the compounds binds itself to a crucial protein the parasite needs to survive, thus blocking the parasite from the taking advantage of the protein.
According to the researchers, the bacterium successfully inhibited the development of the deadliest human malaria parasite, known as Plasmodium falciparum, and the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium berghei, by up to 98 percent in a small preliminary study. The bacterium reduced the prevalence of malaria among the mosquitoes by up to 84 percent.
Past approaches to fighting malaria in mosquitoes focused around genetically modifying the insects themselves to resist malaria. However, scientists found – while successful in the lab – it was much more difficult to spread the genetic changes in nature.
“We changed the strategy, taking advantage of the fact that mosquitoes, like humans, carry big population of bacteria in their guts,” Jacobs-Lorena said. “We took one of bacteria and engineered it to produce anti-malaria proteins. We re-introduced it back into the mosquitoes and found it works quite well.”
The reason this approach cannot be taken in humans, he added, is that while mosquitoes carry malaria in their guts, malaria nearly exclusively spreads through the bloodstream to the liver in humans – completely bypassing the gut.
Among mosquitoes, Jacobs-Lorena believes the bacterium can spread rapidly, through relatively low-cost, low-tech means. By simply soaking cotton balls in sugar and the bacteria, then placing the cotton balls in clay jars where mosquitoes tend to dwell, the insects feed on the cotton balls and contract the bacteria.
The major challenge instead, according to Jacobs-Lorena, will likely be the regulatory and ethical issues associated with releasing genetically modified organisms in nature. The researchers will need approval from both regulatory agencies and communities before conducting trials in the field.
“It may take quite a bit of effort,” Jacobs-Lorena said. “People are predisposed against genetically modified foods and plants. Imagine what kind of challenges we’ll have with this. The advantage in this case we are talking about saving lives, rather than growing food more efficiently or economically.”
First, Jacobs-Lorena and his team plan to conduct semi-field studies with mosquitoes in greenhouses, to show ‘proof of principle’ that the bacterium can work similarly in an outside environment as does in a lab, without any problems.
The researchers also plan to work further with another bacterium, known as serratia, which may potentially be more effective than Pantoea agglomerans. The researchers found serratia appears to grow faster in the mosquito’s gut and populates the ovaries as well – meaning it can be passed from parent to offspring.
“It was a chance discovery,” Jacobs-Lorena said, adding that work with the second bacterium is still in its early stages.
However, Jacobs-Lorena insisted that regardless of regulatory decisions or potential, neither bacteria would be the “a magic bullet” for malaria, which kills approximately 800,000 people each year.
“We cannot forget about other measures,” he said. “The way I envision this is we have restricted ways to fight malaria – drugs for humans, insecticide for mosquitoes – and because the number of malaria cases are so high, these have not been efficient. I envision this as an additional tool to complement existing measures and make the fight more effective” (Fox News, 2012).
Title: Health Officials: No Need To Call 911 For Mosquito Bites
Date: August 24, 2012
Source: CBS DFW
Abstract: With hundreds of human cases of the West Nile Virus being reported across Texas and more than a dozen related deaths in North Texas it seems some people are overreacting and calling 911 when they’re bitten by a mosquito.
In short, health officials say a mosquito is not a health emergency.
“We understand peoples concerns regarding the West Nile Virus, but in the absence of any symptoms of West Nile then a simple mosquito bite is really not a reason for someone to call 911,” said Matt Zavadsky, public affairs director for MedStar Emergency Medical Services.
One woman called Fort Worth 911 requesting assistance because her young nephew had a bump on his arm.
While Fort Worth 911 has a nurse triage program during the day, at night the options are different for emergency workers.
“So our only option at that point is to send an ambulance to that call which takes that emergency resource out of the system — to respond to the motor vehicle accidents, the heart attacks — while we assess that mosquito bite on scene and then have the patient sign some paperwork for us, to allow us to leave,” Zavadsky explained.
Health officials say even if the West Nile Virus is transmitted by a mosquito bite the person would have no symptoms while the virus incubates. An individual wouldn’t begin to feel ill until the virus manifested itself several days later.
If a person is worried that they’ve contracted West Nile health officials say they should contact their personal physician or go to a health clinic. Residents can also get health information by calling 311 in Dallas and 211 in Fort Worth.
When it comes to staying safe Zavadsky said the battle must be a personal one.
“The best protection against catching West Nile Virus is a defensive position
— wear long sleeve clothes, wear long pants, look into your neighborhood and
look into your backyard to make sure that you don’t have a breeding ground for
those mosquitos,” he urged. “Just be proactive about it and prevent the
mosquito bite and you can sleep better at night” (CBS DFW, 2012).
Title: Greece In A Battle With Mosquito-Borne Diseases
Date: September 4, 2012
Abstract: The Southern European country of Greece has certainly seen their share of problems recently, whether it’s their well documented financial woes or the rise in violence against immigrants.
However, another issue has reared its ugly head in the Hellenic Republic- mosquito-borne diseases.
According to a BBC report Tuesday, a man in his 80’s died from what is believed to be the first case of dengue fever in Greece since the 1920s.
Although it has yet to be confirmed, the elderly Agrinio resident had evidence of both West Nile and dengue fever in his blood according to the report.
In addition, he suffered from thrombocytopenia, or a low platelet count, a symptom of the potentially deadly dengue virus.
The Asian tiger mosquito, a vector of West Nile virus (WNV) seen in Europe, is also a vector for dengue fever.
In 2011, the Greek Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) reported 101 cases of WNV and 9 fatalities in the country.
According to the KEELPNO Weekly WNV Epidemiology report late last week, from the beginning of 2012 until August 30, 2012, 110 laboratory diagnosed cases of WNV infection have been reported to KEELPNO and 6 deaths, of which 76 presented with the more serious neuro-invasive disease (encephalitis and/or meningitis and/or acute flaccid paralysis) without a history of travel and 34 cases with mild symptoms (febrile syndrome).
In addition to dengue fever and WNV, malaria is back in Greece, after the country was deemed malaria free nearly four decades ago.
Dozens of cases of Plasmodium vivax malaria were reported last year, particularly in the Laconia district in the south of Greece.
During the first seven months of 2012, KEELPNO has received reports on at least 40 cases, with six cases being autochthonous, in other words, contracted in the country, as they had no travel history to an endemic country.
KEELPNO attributed the rise in malaria cases to climate conditions, the activity of mosquitoes, and a greater influx of immigrants. This prompted the watchdog to warn of a "real prospect" of the disease re-establishing itself in Greece (Examiner, 2012).