Mosquito to fight malaria
European scientists have identified a new way to stop malaria in its tracks. Instead of preventing the malaria parasite from infecting humans, they could instead stop the parasite from infecting the mosquito that spreads the lethal disease.
Researchers are working on prophylactics, vaccines, mosquito eradication programmes and preventive measures such as nets. In 2002, scientists completed the entire DNA sequences of both the Anopheles mosquito and the plasmodium parasite that it carries, in the hope that genetic research might open new avenues.
Now a team from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg report in the US journal Science today that they have homed in on four mosquito proteins that affect the ability of the malaria parasite to survive in its host, report Guardian.co.uk
Elements of the immune system of a mosquito could be used to fight malaria, scientists have revealed. Researchers discovered two proteins that kill the malaria parasite in the gut of its carrier, the Anopheles mosquito.
The finding explains why some of the insects transmit malaria to humans while others do not - it depends on how well the proteins perform. Scientists believe that by enhancing the proteins it may be possible to help the mosquito destroy the parasite.
"By enhancing these natural defenders, we may be able to block the parasite-mosquito cycle," said researcher Stephanie Blandin from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany.
Another two mosquito proteins that have the opposite effect may also be harnessed, according to a second EMBL study led by Mike Osta.
These proteins protect the parasite as it develops in the mosquito. When the genes that make them were inactivated, mosquitoes destroyed 97 per cent of malaria parasites developing in their bodies.