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Feb 28, 2017 08:43 AM EST

Bacterial Genes May Soon Wipe Out Zika Virus And Dengue

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There has been various research about the use of the tiny bacterium called Wolbachia in curbing mosquito population. Recently researchers from Vanderbilt University have discovered the genes in the bacteria that could further help scientists in eliminating dengue and the zika virus.

Wolbachia is found in almost all insects including the mosquito. Although it was discovered in the 1920s, more attention was given to it only in the 90s when scientists discovered that they shorten the life span of insects. This provided an insight that it could also be used to limit how insects transmit diseases.

Recently, research teams from the University of Monash in Melbourne, Australia and Vanderbilt University in Nashville have identified the genes that make the Wolbachia lethal against mosquitoes. This discovery can lead to better genetic engineering strategies that will completely wipe out dengue and the zika virus.

According to the researchers from Vanderbilt University, the pair of genes responsible for the sterility mechanism is called cifA and cifB. These two genes act as a toxin - cidB - and antidote -cidA. What's more amazing about these genes is that they are not embedded in the DNA of the bacterium but in a virus embedded in the Wolbachia chromosome.

They also observed that when they injected the toxin gene, cidB, into a yeast and activated it, the yeast died. However, when both to genes - cidA and cidB - were injected, the yeast survived.

In previous studies, they observed that if a male mosquito infected with Wolbachia could not reproduce even with an uninfected female. However, an uninfected male can still reproduce with an infected female mosquito. What more, the female sorts of rescues the egg and it develops naturally. Through this discovery, scientists have a better understanding why zika virus and dengue spread.

The Monash University study was published in the journal Nature while the Vanderbilt study was published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

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