What a mosquito's immune system can tell us about fighting malaria | Science News

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What a mosquito's immune system can tell us about fighting malaria

New insight into how insect zaps invaders could boost battle against parasite

By
2:00pm, January 20, 2017
Anopheles gambiae mosquito

DISEASE SPREADER  Scientists have gained new insights into how Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes (one shown), a major vector for malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, fend off the parasites that cause the disease.

Immune cells in a malaria-transmitting mosquito sense the invading parasites and deploy an army of tiny messengers in response. These couriers help turn on a mosquito’s defenses, killing off the parasites, a new study suggests.

This more detailed understanding of the mosquito immune system, published January 20 in Science Immunology, might help scientists design new ways to combat malaria, which infects more than 200 million people per year.

“If we understand how the mosquito reduces the parasite to begin with, we hope we can boost these mechanisms to completely eliminate these parasites [in mosquitoes],” says Kristin Michel, an insect immunologist at Kansas State University in Manhattan who wasn’t part of the study.

Different parasites in the Plasmodium genus cause malaria. The disease is spread by certain Anopheles mosquitoes.

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