Science 3 min read

A New Study Reveals How the Mosquitoes Fights Off Malaria

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

In a recently published study in the journal PNAS, Entomologists from Iowa State University described how mosquitoes fight off the parasite that causes malaria.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 219 million global cases of malaria were reported in 2017. And from this number, 435,000 resulted in deaths.

In order to further curb the spread of the disease, researchers are trying to understand its carrier better.

Mosquitoes acquire malaria by biting an infected person, then transmit the disease weeks later. By this time, the parasite has already completed its full cycle.

But before reaching full-cycle, the mosquitoes’ immune system had to fight off the parasite during each stage of development. Now scientists are trying to figure out how the insect’s immune response works.

For the new study, the researchers at Iowa State University wanted to understand how the mosquitoes’ immune system responds to the malaria parasite.

Speaking on the project, assistant professor of entomology and lead author of the study, Ryan Smith said:

“Mosquitoes are generally pretty good at killing off the parasite. We wanted to figure out the mechanisms and pathways that make that happen.”

How Mosquitoes Fight Off Malaria

The researchers used a specific chemical to deplete the mosquitoes’ immune cells. That way, they were defenseless against the pathogen when they examined the insect.

Findings of the study suggest that malaria parasites survived at a higher rate in the insects with depleted immune cells. Also, the researchers noted how the cells triggered different waves of immune responses to distinct stages of the malaria parasite in the host mosquito.

According to Smith, the result of the experiment sheds more light on how the cells recognize and kill the parasite, similar to that found in mammals. The researcher also noted the presence of an insect-specific immune response, the phenoloxidases. 

Studies suggest that this initiates a secondary immune response in mosquitoes at the later stages of the parasite’s cycle.

The implication of the Study

With an understanding of how mosquitoes’ immune system responds, scientists can eliminate malaria parasites. By effect, it would also reduce disease transmission.

For example, Smith suggests using genetic approaches to make the insect resistant to malaria. When introduced to endemic areas, mosquitoes with enhanced immunity could potentially save thousands of life

However, the researcher noted:

“There are more steps required to validate that kind of approach, but we think this study lays a foundation for those future experiments.”

Read More: Researchers Explore Why Mosquitoes Choose Humans

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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