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Malaria's sweet spot

11:36am, September 26, 2007

A sugar molecule in the guts of mosquitoes is crucial in spreading the malaria parasite from person to insect to person, scientists have discovered.

After a mosquito takes blood from an infected person, parasites in that blood must bind to the inner wall of the insect's gut and then pass through it. Sugar molecules called chondroitin glycosaminoglycans cover the cells that form the wall's surface, and these molecules give the parasite a place to grab on, the research shows.

The scientists injected laboratory mosquitoes with a molecule that blocked production of these sugars. The treatment reduced by about 95 percent the number of malaria parasites that passed through the wall, the team reports online and in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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