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Mosquito immune system examined

Mosquitoes employ the same immune factors to fight off bacterial pathogens as they do to kill malaria-causing Plasmodium parasites, according to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study identified several genes that encode proteins of the mosquito's immune system. All of the immune genes that were involved in limiting infection by the malaria parasites were also important for the resistance to bacterial infection. However, several immune genes that were essential for resistance to bacterial infection did not affect Plasmodium infection. According to the authors, the findings add to the understanding of mosquito immunity, and could contribute towards the development of malaria-control strategies based on blocking the parasite in the mosquito. The study is published in the June 8, 2006, edition of PloS Pathogens.

"Mosquitoes that transmit malaria can kill large portions of Plasmodium parasites, and some mosquito strains are totally resistant to Plasmodium. However, our observations suggest that mosquitoes have not evolved a highly-specific defense against malaria parasites. Instead, they employ factors of their antimicrobial defense system to combat the Plasmodium parasite," said George Dimopoulos, Ph.D., senior author of the study and assistant professor with the Bloomberg School's Malaria Research Institute. "The degree of mosquito susceptibility to Plasmodium, and thereby its capacity to transmit malaria, may therefore partly depend on the mosquito's microbial exposure, which can differ greatly between different geographic sites. Potentially, we could boost the mosquito's capacity to fight the malaria parasite by exposing it to certain microbes or compounds that resemble the microbe molecules responsible for immune activation."

In this study, the investigators also analyzed the immune responses of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes to infection with different Plasmodium parasite species, one that causes mala
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Contact: Tim Parsons
paffairs@jhsph.edu
410-955-6878
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
8-Jun-2006


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