GM rice to fight rotavirus

Print edition : September 06, 2013

Golden rice, a GM variety, in a greenhouse.

A NEW genetically modified (GM) rice variety could protect children from rotavirus, the deadly diarrhoeal infection that kills over 600,000 children worldwide. The research work has been reported in the latest issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

According to the researchers, this rice could be used as a supplement to the currently available vaccines against the infection to improve their efficacy, particularly in immuno-compromised children of Asia and Africa where the efficacy rates have been found to be significantly lower than in the developed regions of the world. To develop this transgenic rice, the research team, which included Japanese and British scientists, inserted genes from llamas to get the rice crops to develop a key (heavy-chain) fragment of the rotavirus antibody called MucoRice-ARP1.

The rice crop, which used rice seeds using an over-expression system and RNA interference technology, was found to produce high levels of this antibody fragment. Experiments with immuno-compromised and immunodeficient mice, orally administered with water mixed with the GM rice powder, were found to bring down the viral loads markedly. The antibody, according to the research paper, retained in vitro neutralising activity even after long-term storage (more than one year) of the rice and boiling and conferred protection in mice even after heat treatment at 94 C for 30 minutes.

“High-yield, water-soluble, and purification-free MucoRice-ARP1 thus forms the basis for orally administered prophylaxis and therapy against rotavirus infections,” the authors say in the paper.