Malaria is caused by parasites whose lives begin in the bodies of mosquitoes. When mosquitoes feed on the blood of an infected human, the malaria parasites undergo complex development in the insect’s gut. The new study has focused on disrupting this growth and development with a lethal protein, CEL-III, found in sea cucumbers, to prevent the mosquito from passing on the parasite.
Human blood infected with malaria contains parasitic gametocytes – cells which can create parasite sperm and eggs in the gut of the insect. These then fertilise, kick-starting the parasite reproductive process and life cycle by producing invasive offspring called ookinetes.
These ookinetes then migrate through the mosquito’s stomach wall and produce thousands of ‘daughter’ cells known as sporozoites. After 10-20 days these are ready in the salivary glands to infect another human when the mosquito takes a subsequent blood meal.
The international team fused part of the sea cucumber lectin gene with part of a mosquito gene so that the mosquito would release lectin into its gut during feeding. The released lectin is toxic to the ookinete and therefore kills the parasite in the mosquito’s stomach.
In laboratory tests the research team showed that introducing lectin to the mosquito’s gut in this way significantly impaired the development of malaria parasites inside the mosquito, potentially preventing transmission to other people. Early indications suggest that this sea cucumber protein could be effective on more than one of the four different parasites that can cause malaria in humans.
Professor Bob Sinden from Imperial College London’s Department of Life Sciences, one of the authors on the paper said: “These results are very promising and show that genetically engineering mosquitoes in this way has a clear impact on the parasites’ ability to multiply inside the mosquito host.”
However, Professor Sinden explains that there is still a lot of work to do before such techniques can be used to combat the spread of malaria in real-world scenario. This is because although the sea cucumber protein significantly reduces the number of parasites in mosquitoes, it does not totally remove all parasites from all mosquitoes and as such, at this stage of development, would not be effective enough to prevent transmission of malaria to humans.
Professor Sinden says he hopes studies such as this one, which improve scientists’ understanding of the complex process by which malaria parasites are transmitted, will lead to new advances in the quest to prevent malaria.“Ultimately, one aim of our field is to find a way of genetically engineering mosquitoes so that the malaria parasite cannot develop inside them. This study is one more step along the road towards achieving that goal, not least because it has been shown that more than one species of malaria can be killed in this way.”
Malaria is especially a serious problem in Africa, where one in every five childhood deaths is due to the effects of the disease. An African child has on average between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of malaria fever each year.
Danielle Reeves | alfa
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences