Included in the 35 are five genes that encode insulin-like peptides that probably have pivotal roles in the life cycle of the mosquitoes. An ability to interfere with the action of these genes on a large scale could keep the mosquitoes from passing on parasites that cause malaria.
"It is important to know as much as possible about how these insects transmit malaria," said Dr. Mark Brown, an internationally recognized mosquito biologist at UGA. "These genes offer new information on the regulatory processes that make the transmission of disease possible."
The research was published today in the journal Science and was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Other researchers involved are Dr. Joe Crim and Dr. Stephen Garczynski of the department of cellular biology at UGA; Dr. Michael Riehle, an entomologist, like Brown, from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UGA; and Dr. Catherine Hill of the University of Notre Dame.
Malaria is one of the planet's deadliest diseases and one of the leading causes of sickness and death in the developing world. According World Health Organization statistics from the late 1990s, there are 300 to 500 million clinical cases of malaria each year resulting in 1.5 to 2.7 million deaths. Children aged one to four are the most vulnerable to infection and death. Malaria is responsible for as many as half the deaths of African children under the age of five. The disease kills more than one million children--2,800 per day--each year in Africa alone. In regions of intense transmission, 40 percent of toddlers may die of acute malaria.