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Fruit fly model could explain how mosquitoes carry malaria: new drugs and vaccines on the horizon

n some of the world's poorest countries," Schneider says.

Another possibility is that a better understanding of how mosquitoes carry malaria might lead to a transmission-blocking vaccine. Malaria vaccines have been particularly elusive because Plasmodium hide inside human cells, making it difficult for the immune system to locate and purge it from the body. Furthermore, the parasite acts like a chameleon, constantly changing its surface so the immune system is unable to recognize it.

A transmission-blocking vaccine would not protect the person who originally becomes infected with malaria. Instead it would prevent the disease from spreading throughout an entire village by prohibiting the parasite from developing inside the mosquito.

Much further down the line, the fly model might also be useful in creating mosquitoes that are resistant to malaria. Theoretically, these designer mosquitoes could be released into the wild where they would replace the vulnerable native mosquitoes. "By understanding how the host mosquito fights the malaria infection, we might be able to design mosquitoes that fight harder," Schneider adds. "We're a long way from changing the genetic make-up of mosquitoes in such a drastic manner, but it may be a very real possibility in the fight against malaria in years to come."


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Contact: Stefanie Doebler
doebler@wi.mit.edu
617-258-9183
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
29-Jun-2000


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