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Fighting malaria by manipulating mosquitoes' sense of smell

Combating the spread of malaria by manipulating the mosquitoes' sense of smell is the object of an ambitious research project, led by Vanderbilt University, that has been selected to receive $8.5 million as part of the Grand Challenges to Global Health.

The initiative, which was launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has just announced the selection of 43 "groundbreaking" research projects to improve health in developing countries that will receive a total of $436 million in support. As part of this effort, mosquito researchers from Vanderbilt University, Yale University, the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the Ifakara Health Research and Development Centre in Tanzania and the Medical Research Council Laboratories in the Gambia will be developing a fundamentally new approach to malaria control that relies on powerful chemical repellents and attractants deployed in ways that can both interfere with malaria mosquitoes' ability to find human targets and lure the insects to their death.

Malaria is considered to be the most prevalent life-threatening disease in the world, with estimates of the number of new cases that range from 300 million to 660 millions cases per year. Current efforts to control this disease, which combine the use of insecticides with improved access to effective diagnosis and treatment, have great potential to save lives but face enormous challenges and cannot eradicate malaria without the development of complementary control technologies.

Recent advances in the genetics, biology, immunology and behavior of mosquitoes open up new and unexplored avenues for controlling malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. The goal of the Vanderbilt-led research team is to pursue one of the most promising of these new avenues: developing chemical compounds that interfere with the malaria mosquitoes' exquisite sense of smell. The effectiveness of such an olfactory strategy has been demonstrated by a program with the African
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Contact: David F. Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
30-Jun-2005


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