Andrea Crisanti (scientist)

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Andrea Crisanti
Born (1954-09-14) September 14, 1954 (age 66)
Alma mater
Scientific career
Doctoral students Flaminia Catteruccia

Andrea Crisanti (born 1954) is an Italian full professor of Microbiology at the University of Padua. He previously was professor of Molecular Parasitology at Imperial College London. He is best known for the development of genetically manipulated mosquitoes with the objective to interfere with either their reproductive rate or the capability to transmit diseases such as malaria. [1]



Crisanti earned his Master of Medicine and Surgery degree in Italy at Sapienza University of Rome. [2] At the Basel Institute for Immunology, while studying for his PhD, Crisanti discovered the IL2 receptor of immature thymocytes. Crisanti served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH) at the University of Heidelberg. In 1994, Crisanti became a lecturer at Imperial College, before being appointed Professor in 2000. He is also the director of the Centre of Functional Genomics at the University of Perugia. [3] He is an author of over 100 scientific publications in leading scientific journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , The EMBO Journal , Cell , Science and Nature .

At Imperial College London, Crisanti has established the technologies to eliminate the human malaria vector Anopheles gambiae. Crisanti's work exploits the biological properties of a class of selfish genetic elements (homing endonuclease) to develop a gene transfer technology. Using such technology, Crisanti has developed genetically manipulated mosquitoes producing a male-only progeny. In the future, further refinements of the technology may lead to the development of vector control tools based on the release of just a few genetically modified mosquitoes. Via natural breeding, the genes can effectively spread to large field mosquito populations, reducing malaria-spreading mosquito numbers in the wild and ultimately decreasing malaria incidence. [4] [5] In 2018, Crisanti and colleagues demonstrated that CRISPR/Cas9 can be programmed to attack a conserved region of the sex determination gene, doublesex, which impairs female mosquito development and could spread effectively to 100% of a population in a few generations. [6] This study represents the first time that researchers have been able to block the reproductive capacity of a complex organism in the laboratory using designer molecular approaches. [7]

In 2011, Crisanti was appointed editor-in-chief of medical journal Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology , which in 2012 under Crisanti's leadership became Pathogens and Global Health , reflecting the journal's newly formed broader focus. [8] Crisanti is a chairman of the scientific panel of the EU Marie Curie Programme, I-Move, and has advised on issues concerning the safety of genetically modified insects for the Consilium Pontificium of the Vatican City [9] and the European Food Safety Authority. [10]


In March 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy, Crisanti conducted analysis of citizens in and found that most of the infected people were asymptomatic carriers; without symptoms but capable of spreading the COVID-19 virus. [11] [12] Crisanti's research, which was published in Nature , [13] was strongly supported by a BMJ editorial which appeared on 1 July. [14] Crisanti is highly critical of the World Health Organization. His throat swab test methodology was complete on 25 January (the date is an error) and amongst the first in the world. Crisanti demanded and obtained the co-operation of the President of Veneto, Luca Zaia, in the teeth of opposition by the WHO, which had co-opted the administration of Giuseppe Conte.[ citation needed ] In neighbouring Lombardy the death toll exceeded 16,800 while in Veneto it was minimal. In the opinion of Crisanti,[ citation needed ]

the WHO guidelines were completely wrong, an incredible example of incoherence... Their bureaucrats were far away from the problem and far away from the science. I think what Donald Trump did [moving to pull United States out of WHO] is one of the few things he's done that I can agree with.

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<i>Anopheles</i> Genus of mosquito

Anopheles is a genus of mosquito first described and named by J. W. Meigen in 1818. About 460 species are recognised; while over 100 can transmit human malaria, only 30–40 commonly transmit parasites of the genus Plasmodium, which cause malaria in humans in endemic areas. Anopheles gambiae is one of the best known, because of its predominant role in the transmission of the most dangerous malaria parasite species – Plasmodium falciparum.

<i>Plasmodium falciparum</i> Protozoan species of malaria parasite

Plasmodium falciparum is a unicellular protozoan parasite of humans, and the deadliest species of Plasmodium that causes malaria in humans. The parasite is transmitted through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito and causes the disease's most dangerous form, falciparum malaria. It is responsible for around 50% of all malaria cases. P. falciparum is therefore regarded as the deadliest parasite in humans, causing 405,000 deaths in 2018. It is also associated with the development of blood cancer and is classified as Group 2A carcinogen.

<i>Plasmodium ovale</i>

Plasmodium ovale is a species of parasitic protozoa that causes tertian malaria in humans. It is one of several species of Plasmodium parasites that infect humans including Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax which are responsible for most malarial infection. It is rare compared to these two parasites, and substantially less dangerous than P. falciparum.

<i>Aedes aegypti</i>

Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito, is a mosquito that can spread dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika fever, Mayaro and yellow fever viruses, and other disease agents. The mosquito can be recognized by white markings on its legs and a marking in the form of a lyre on the upper surface of its thorax. This mosquito originated in Africa, but is now found in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world.

Mosquito net

A mosquito net is a type of meshed curtain that is circumferentially draped over a bed or a sleeping area, to offer the sleeper barrier protection against bites and stings from mosquitos, flies, and other pest insects, and thus against the diseases they may carry. Examples of such preventable insect-borne diseases include malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, zika virus and various forms of encephalitis, including the West Nile virus.

Mosquito control efforts to reduce damage from mosquitoes

Mosquito control manages the population of mosquitoes to reduce their damage to human health, economies, and enjoyment. Mosquito control is a vital public-health practice throughout the world and especially in the tropics because mosquitoes spread many diseases, such as malaria and the Zika virus.

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<i>Anopheles gambiae</i> species of mosquito

The Anopheles gambiae complex consists of at least seven morphologically indistinguishable species of mosquitoes in the genus Anopheles. The complex was recognised in the 1960s and includes the most important vectors of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly of the most dangerous malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. It is one of the most efficient malaria vectors known. The An. gambiae mosquito additionally transmits Wuchereria bancrofti which causes Lymphatic philariasis, more commonly known as elephantiasis.

Mosquito-borne disease

Mosquito-borne diseases or mosquito-borne illnesses are diseases caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites transmitted by mosquitoes. Nearly 700 million people get a mosquito-borne illness each year resulting in over one million deaths.

Genetically modified animal

Genetically modified animals are animals that have been genetically modified for a variety of purposes including producing drugs, enhancing yields, increasing resistance to disease, etc. The vast majority of genetically modified animals are at the research stage while the number close to entering the market remains small.

Genetically modified insect

A genetically modified (GM) insect is an insect that has been genetically modified, either through mutagenesis, or more precise processes of transgenesis, or cisgenesis. Motivations for using GM insects include biological research purposes and genetic pest management. Genetic pest management capitalizes on recent advances in biotechnology and the growing repertoire of sequenced genomes in order to control pest populations, including insects. Insect genomes can be found in genetic databases such as NCBI, and databases more specific to insects such as FlyBase, VectorBase, and BeetleBase. There is an ongoing initiative started in 2011 to sequence the genomes of 5,000 insects and other arthropods called the i5k. Some Lepidoptera have been genetically modified in nature by the wasp bracovirus.

<i>Anopheles stephensi</i>

Anopheles stephensi is a primary mosquito vector of malaria in urban India and is included in the same subgenus as Anopheles gambiae, the primary malaria vector in Africa. A. gambiae consists of a complex of morphologically identical species of mosquitoes, along with all other major malaria vectors; however, A. stephensi has not yet been included in any of these complexes. Nevertheless, two races of A. stephensi exist based on differences in egg dimensions and the number of ridges on the eggs; A. s. stephensisensu stricto, the type form, is a competent malaria vector that takes place in urban areas, and A. s. mysorensis, the variety form, exists in rural areas and exhibits considerable zoophilic behaviour, making it a poor malaria vector. However, A. s. mysorensis is a detrimental vector in Iran. An intermediate form also exists in rural communities and peri-urban areas, though its vector status is unknown. About 12% of malaria cases in India are due to A. stephensi.

Genome editing Type of genetic engineering

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Gene drive

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Q-system is a genetic tool that allows to express transgenes in a living organism. Originally the Q-system was developed for use in the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster, and was rapidly adapted for use in cultured mammalian cells, zebrafish, worms and mosquitoes. The Q-system utilizes genes from the qa cluster of the bread fungus Neurospora crassa, and consists of four components: the transcriptional activator (QF/QF2/QF2w), the enhancer QUAS, the repressor QS, and the chemical de-repressor quinic acid. Similarly to GAL4/UAS and LexA/LexAop, the Q-system is a binary expression system that allows to express reporters or effectors in a defined subpopulation of cells with the purpose of visualising these cells or altering their function. In addition, GAL4/UAS, LexA/LexAop and the Q-system function independently of each other and can be used simultaneously to achieve a desired pattern of reporter expression, or to express several reporters in different subsets of cells.

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  1. "Projects". Crisanti Lab. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  3. "Andrea Crisanti - CV" (PDF). University of Perugia. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  4. Webb, Jonathan. "GM lab mosquitoes may aid malaria fight". BBC. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  5. Galizi, Roberto; Doyle, Lindsay; Menichelli, Miriam; Bernardini, Federica; Deredac, Anne; Burt, Austin; Stoddard, Barry; Windbichler, Nikolai; Crisanti, Andrea (10 June 2014). "A synthetic sex ratio distortion system for the control of the human malaria mosquito". Nature Communications. 5: 3977. Bibcode:2014NatCo...5.3977G. doi:10.1038/ncomms4977. PMC   4057611 . PMID   24915045.
  6. Crisanti, Andrea; Nolan, Tony; Beaghton, Andrea K.; Burt, Austin; Kranjc, Nace; Galizi, Roberto; Hammond, Andrew M.; Kyrou, Kyros (24 September 2018). "A CRISPR–Cas9 gene drive targeting doublesex causes complete population suppression in caged Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes". Nature Biotechnology. 36 (11): 1062–1066. doi:10.1038/nbt.4245. ISSN   1546-1696. PMC   6871539 . PMID   30247490.
  7. Dunning, Hayley (24 September 2018). "Mosquitoes that can carry malaria eliminated in lab experiments | Imperial News | Imperial College London". Imperial News. Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  8. "An interview with Andrea Crisanti, Editor of Pathogens and Global health". YouTube Maney Publishing Channel. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  9. "Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace" (PDF). The Vatican Publications. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  10. "Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms" (PDF). European Food Safety Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 November 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  11. Crisanti, Andrea; Cassone, Antonio (20 March 2020). "In one Italian town, we showed mass testing could eradicate the coronavirus". The Guardian / University of Padua . Archived from the original on 23 March 2020. asymptomatic or quasi-symptomatic subjects represent a good 70% of all virus-infected people and, still worse, an unknown, yet impossible to ignore portion of them can transmit the virus to others
  12. Reguly, Eric (24 July 2020). "The Italian scientist who challenged the WHO guidelines and spared a town from the pandemic". The Globe and Mail Inc.
  13. Lavezzo, E.; Franchin, E.; Ciavarella, C.; Cuomo-Dannenburg, G.; Barzon, L.; Del Vecchio, C.; Rossi, L.; Manganelli, R.; Loregian, A.; Navarin, N.; Abate, D.; Sciro, M.; Merigliano, S.; De Canale, E.; Vanuzzo, M. C.; Besutti, V.; Saluzzo, F.; Onelia, F.; Pacenti, M.; Parisi, S. G.; Carretta, G.; Donato, D.; Flor, L.; Cocchio, S.; Masi, G.; Sperduti, A.; Cattarino, L.; Salvador, R.; Nicoletti, M.; et al. (2020). "Suppression of a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in the Italian municipality of Vo'". Nature. 584 (7821): 425–429. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2488-1 . PMID   32604404. S2CID   220286952.
  14. Mahase, Elisabeth (2020). "Covid-19: Four in 10 cases in Italian town that locked down early were asymptomatic". BMJ. 370: m2647. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m2647 . PMID   32611551.