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Dengue-resistance Spreads in Mosquitoes

Researchers engineer a bacterium that can arm the majority of the insect population with dengue resistance, and stop the virus’s spread to humans.

Edyta Zielinska

Larva of Aedes aegyptiWIKIMEDIA COMMONS, ECONT

Australian researchers have added an additional tweak to the strain of bacteria they used to infect mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus, and shown that it can spread effectively throughout a local population of mosquitoes in the wild, according to Nature.

The lab’s earlier work had demonstrated that a strain of Wolbachia pipientis, a bacterium that infects insects, could halt the reproduction cycle of the dengue virus.  While the exact mechanism is unknown, the bacteria likely "compete for limited sub-cellular resources required by the virus for replication," lead author Scott O'Neill from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia told Nature.

But the first strain O’Neill’s group used killed not only the virus, but also about half of the mosquito hosts before they could reproduce and pass the disease-stopping bacteria on to their progeny.  Slight alterations to the Wolbachia allowed it to remain in...

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