Malaria is the scourge of tropical nations, crippling its victims with symptoms like debilitating fever, convulsions and nausea, and killing half a million people annually. Now researchers in South Africa say they may have a one-size-fits-all solution, in the form of a new drug that could work with just one dose.
Scientists hard at work at eradicating malaria have often focused on the malaria-carrying mosquito, creating solutions ranging from genetic modification to malaria-attacking fungi to stinky sock lures (and about a billion more). The latest is a radiation treatment that effectively makes some male mosquitoes sterile--which, due to the particular mating habits of these mosquitoes, could have a drastic effect on mosquito populations.
In trying to curb malaria, biologists and epidemiologists have pulled some dirty tricks on mosquitoes (some quite literally dirty; remember the dirty sock trap from last week?). But after all the genetic tinkering to make mosquitoes disease resistant and the laser and nano-attacks that kill the insects on the wing, this one might be the meanest of all: a genetic trick that blocks mosquitoes' ability to digest blood.
Researchers are testing a potent new tool in the fight against malaria: dirty socks. Experiments are underway in three villages to see if smelly socks can lure mosquitoes into poisoned traps as effectively as synthetic chemical baits that can be expensive and complicated to mix. If so, good old fashioned human stink could become a key tool for curbing malaria infections.
By Jennie WaltersPosted 06.30.2011 at 11:00 am 9 Comments
Last summer’s floods in Pakistan displaced millions of people--and millions of spiders. Although spiders rarely migrate to trees during natural disasters, the flooding was so heavy and prolonged, they had to climb trees and remain there. According to University of Akron biologist Todd Blackledge, who studies web-weaving spiders, some spin new webs each day. After weeks, the dense layers of silk, seen here in Sindh province, covered the trees--a result of continuous web spinning by the eight-legged refugees.
Researchers at Vanderbilt looking for better ways to control the spread of malaria have stumbled across an insect repellent that is thousands of times stronger than DEET. But it doesn’t just work to confuse malaria-carrying mosquitoes. This new compound works against all insects, including flies, ants, and moths.
Scientists have taken a big step toward curbing the impact of malaria across the globe, but the breakthrough didn’t occur in a pharmaceutical lab. A collaboration between researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Washington has produced a gene that the team was able to effectively spread from just a few mosquitoes to most of a population in just a dozen generations. Armed with malaria inhibiting characteristics, such a gene could combat malaria at the source.
To combat malaria, why not skip the step of genetically altering mosquitoes and try some transgenic fungus instead? In a new study, researchers sprayed mosquitoes with a fungus that had been modified to deliver compounds that target the malaria parasite. They found the treatment could reduce disease transmission to humans by at least five-fold.