Evaluation of anti-malaria potency of wild and genetically modified Enterobacter cloacae expressing effector proteins in Anopheles stephensi

H. Dehghan, S. H. Mosa-Kazemi, B. Yakhchali, N. Maleki-Ravasan, H. Vatandoost and M. A. Oshaghi,  Parasites and Vectors,  15:63. 2022.

Background: Malaria is one of the most lethal infectious diseases in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Paratransgenesis using symbiotic bacteria offers a sustainable and environmentally friendly strategy to combat this disease. In the study reported here, we evaluated the disruption of malaria transmission in the Anopheles stephensi- Plasmodium berghei assemblage using the wild-type (WT) and three modified strains of the insect gut bacterium, Enterobacter cloacae. Methods: The assay was carried out using the E. cloacae dissolvens WT and three engineered strains (expressing green fluorescent protein-defensin (GFP-D), scorpine-HasA (S-HasA) and HasA only, respectively). Cotton wool soaked in a solution of 5% (wt/vol) fructose + red dye (1/50 ml) laced with one of the bacterial strains (1 × 109cells/ ml) was placed overnight in cages containing female An. stephensi mosquitoes (age: 3–5 days). Each group of sugar-fed mosquitoes was then starved for 4–6 h, following which time they were allowed to blood-feed on P. berghei–infected mice for 20 min in the dark at 17–20 °C. The blood-fed mosquitoes were kept at 19 ± 1 °C and 80 ± 5% relative humidity, and parasite infection was measured by midgut dissection and oocyst counting 10 days post-infection (dpi). Results: Exposure to both WT and genetically modified E. cloacae dissolvens strains significantly (P < 0.0001) disrupted P. berghei development in the midgut of An. stephensi, in comparison with the control group. The mean parasite inhibition of E. cloacaeWT, E. cloacaeHasA, E. cloacaeS−HasA and E. cloacaeGFP−D was measured as 72, 86, 92.5 and 92.8 respectively. Conclusions: The WT and modified strains of E. cloacae have the potential to abolish oocyst development by providing a physical barrier or through the excretion of intrinsic effector molecules. These findings reinforce the case for the use of either WT or genetically modified strains of E. cloacae bacteria as a powerful tool to combat malaria

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