Researchers Use GMO Mosquitoes to Vaccinate Humans in NIH-Funded Malaria Study

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The National Institutes of Health funded a malaria vaccine trial study that used genetically modified mosquitoes to vaccinate humans. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has close ties to the research.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded a malaria vaccine trial study that used genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes to vaccinate humans.

team of researchers at the University of Washington conducted the study, which was published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

The study involved 26 participants who received three to five “jabs” — or bites from a small box containing 200 GM mosquitoes — over a 30-day period.

Sanaria, a company funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), is closely connected to the research, and the researchers involved in the trial use a gene-editing technology heavily promoted by Bill Gates.

Genetically modified mosquitoes used as ‘flying syringes’

The trial used malaria-causing Plasmodium mosquitoes that were genetically modified to avoid causing sickness in humans to infect participants with a “minor” version of malaria — insufficient to cause severe illness, but enough to make the humans create antibodies.

Dr. Sean Murphy, lead author of the study, told NPR, “We use the mosquitoes like they’re 1,000 small flying syringes.”

Despite the publicity generated by this study, however, results appear to have been mixed.

Of the 14 trial participants exposed to malaria, seven contracted the disease. For the remaining seven, the protection conferred by the vaccine did not last more than a few months and eventually dissipated.

According to the study:

“Half of the individuals in each vaccine group did not develop detectable P. falciparum infection, and a subset of these individuals was subjected to a second [Controlled Human Malaria Infection] 6 months later and remained partially protected.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “infections caused by P. falciparum are the most likely to progress to severe, potentially fatal forms” of malaria.

Adverse reactions in trial participants reportedly were “what one would expect after getting bit by hundreds of mosquitoes and nothing more.”

For example, trial participant Carolina Reid told NPR her entire forearm “swelled and blistered.”

Despite the study’s mixed results, the researchers claimed the “results support further development of genetically attenuated sporozoites as potential malaria vaccines.”

The researchers suggested several reasons for using live mosquitoes rather than a vaccine that could be delivered via a syringe, including that the use of live insects made sense, as the P. falciparum parasite quickly matures inside the mosquito.

In addition, the process of developing a version of the parasite that could be delivered via a syringe was described as “costly and time consuming.”

Nevertheless, according to Murphy the study will not be used for the mass vaccination of humans. However, the researchers involved in the trial said they believe the approach they used can eventually result in the development of a “substantially more effective” malaria vaccine.

By Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D.

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