Malaria kills one child every thirty
seconds in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to recent estimates. It is
a huge problem threatening over 40 per cent of the world's
population and is still on the increase. The infection causes more
than 300 million acute illnesses and at least a million deaths
annually and is recognised as a major factor impeding the
development of some of the poorest nations.
It is a major health challenge worldwide, yet the resources
devoted to tackling malaria are woefully inadequate and it is often
argued that if it had the same impact in Europe or the USA, it
would be receiving far greater attention. Yet with accelerating
climate change, the fact that it could spread further is no longer
beyond the bounds of possibility.
Past strategies to kill off mosquitoes with insecticides failed
as they developed resistance, just as malaria itself has developed
resistance to some of the drugs used to control the disease.
Researchers in the Centre for Applied Entomology and
Parasitology, part of the Institute for Science and Technology in
Medicine at Keele University in the West Midlands region of the UK,
are focusing their efforts on trying to break the transmission
cycle through which the disease is passed on, by studying the
complex relationship between the parasite and the mosquito
By studying the biology of the interaction between host and
parasite, they are looking at ways that it could be altered,
biologically and genetically, to prevent the parasite being passed
on by the mosquito.
Discoveries of particular interest are that the mosquito kills
off many of the parasites in its gut in the first 24 hours, posing
the question as to whether this action could be enhanced?
Additionally, the egg production of an infected mosquito falls,
possibly to preserve resources and stay alive, while the malaria
parasite develops to an infective stage, leading researchers to
question whether this could be altered so that the mosquito dies
before the parasite is ready.
They are also working on a novel approach to genetically
engineering mosquitoes by creating a “docking site” on
a mosquito chromosome, which could provide a stable and reliable
way of introducing a gene to a mosquito, for example to combat
The ultimate aim would be to replace natural populations of
mosquitoes in disease endemic areas, with a “genetically
modified mosquito” incapable of carrying the malaria
- Mosquito insectary
- Mosquito cages
- Mosquito feeding on arm
- Mosquito embryos injected with DNA
- Genetically modified mosquito images under UV
- Professor Hilary Hurd, Professor of Parasitology, Keele
- Professor Paul Eggleston, Professor of Molecular Entomology,