Genetically modified mosquitoes vaccinate a human

Mike Campbell

September 27, 2022

A box full of genetically modified mosquitos successfully vaccinated a human against malaria in a trial funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Genetically modified mosquitoes vaccinate a human

The study involved about 200 hungry mosquitos biting a human subject’s arm. Human participants placed their arms directly over a small box full of the bloodsuckers.  

“We use the mosquitoes like they’re 1,000 small flying syringes,” said researcher Dr. Sean Murphy, as reported by NPR.

Three to five “vaccinations” took place over 30-day intervals.  

The mosquitos gave minor versions of malaria that didn’t make people sick, but gave them antibodies. Efficacy from the antibodies lasted a few months. 

“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 CHMI 6 months later and remained partially protected. These results support further development of genetically attenuated sporozoites as potential malaria vaccines,” researchers concluded.

Carolina Reid was one of twenty-six participants in the study. 

“My whole forearm swelled and blistered. My family was laughing, asking like, ‘why are you subjecting yourself to this?'” 

Reid enjoyed her experience so much that she says she wants to participate in as many vaccine trials as she can. For this research, each participant received $4,100 as an incentive.

Adverse reactions were what one would expect after getting bit by hundreds of mosquitos and nothing more. 

Dr. Kirsten Lyke calls the research “a total game changer.” 

Lyke led the phase 1 trials for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and was a co-investigator for Moderna and Novavax COVID vaccines. 

Researchers say the genetically modified mosquitos will not be used at large to vaccinate millions of people. The reason why mosquitos were used instead of syringes, they claim, was to save costs. 

“He and his colleagues went this route because it is costly and time consuming to develop a formulation of a parasite that can be delivered with a needle,” NPR reports. 

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