Center for Global Health

1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

Phone: (505) 272-8207
Fax: (505) 272-8441

History of the Paratransgenesis Laboratory


The Paratransgenesis Laboratory of The Centers for Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Global Health (Durvasula Lab) has played a pioneering role in the development of novel approaches to the control of infectious disease transmission. In 1997, Dr. Durvasula was part of a research team at Yale that described a strategy termed paratransgenesis, in which symbiotic bacteria of a disease-transmitting arthropod could be genetically transformed to produce molecules that killed the pathogen within the arthropod itself.

This 'Trojan Horse' approach was first developed in the triatomine, or kissing bug, vector of Chagas disease, Rhodnius prolixus. The symbiotic bacterium of R. prolixus, an actinomycete named Rhodococcus rhodnii, was genetically transformed to export cecropin A, a peptide toxic to the Chagas parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi. Paratransgenic lines of R. prolixus which carried the genetically altered bacteria were refractory to T. cruzi infection (Durvasula et al, PNAS 1997). Two years later, Dr. Durvasula's group demonstrated the expression of a single chain antibody in the gut of Rhodnius prolixus via the engineered symbiotic bacterium. This was the first description of a functional antibody in an insect (Durvasula et al., Med Vet Entomology 1999).

For more than a decade, the focus of the Durvasula Lab has been development of paratransgenic strategies for control of a variety of infectious diseases.