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Brazilian Scientist Develops in California Technique to Reduce Dengue Mosquitoes

MarinottiA method developed by a Brazilian researcher at the University of California, Irvine, Dr Osvaldo Marinotti, may make possible within two years to reduce the dengue mosquito (Aedes aegypti) population.

The method will not use powerful insecticides that pollute the environment, but genetics. The idea is to place a toxin in the DNA of the female Aedes aegypti that will make it unable to survive.

Females with this DNA “flaw” would be released into nature where they will lay defective eggs. As the female is the only mosquito to spread disease, the males would be normal.

Osvaldo Marinotti says the technique could eliminate mosquitoes in a given location, but as they are everywhere, after a while “healthy” mosquitoes would return. This would make it necessary to inject the flawed mosquitoes into natural settings periodically.

He explains that the technique itself is cheap and that the biggest expenses would probably be in distribution and transportation of the mosquitoes.

Dr Marinotti was born in São Caetano do Sul, São Paulo, in 1959. He studied biology and biochemistry at the University of São Paulo (Ph.D. in 1986). He has been at the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry of University of California, Irvine, since 2001.

From Marinotti’s webpage: The sequencing of the genomes of Anopheles gambiae and Aedes aegypti is a major achievement. The sequenced genomes present opportunities to improve vector control by revealing new strategies to control pathogen transmission and new gene targets for insecticides and insect repellents.

However, a key question to be answered by vector biologists is how to explore this sequenced information in the pursuit of these goals. The analysis of gene expression patterns and the linking of those genes to their biological functions are basic and fundamental steps toward using sequenced data for controlling disease transmission.

Our studies utilize a commercial DNA microarray platform and are focused in identifying genes expressed during the adult life of An. gambiae. A publicly available database containing the detailed analyses of specific Anopheles gambiae genes, categorized by their descriptions, functions and levels of expression has been developed – http://www.angagepuci.bio.uci.edu

Species identification of malaria vectors (anopheline mosquitoes), can be problematic because many of them belong to complexes of morphologically similar species. Often these species differ in their ecology, behavior and vectorial importance.

The application of DNA-based diagnostics has been proven useful for distinguishing between such species. We sequenced the second internal transcribed spacer (ITS2) of ribosomal DNA from several species of Anopheles captured in the Amazon Basin. The ITS2 sequence database proved to be a useful tool for species identification and, potentially, to solve taxonomic problems.

ABr/Bzz

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