Archived news articles - 2007

The Straits Times , 24 December 2007

New weapon against malaria?

A TINY bit of sea cucumber could be a big new weapon against malaria, according to a new study.

Scientists from the United States, Japan and Britain have genetically engineered a mosquito to release a sea cucumber protein into its gut that can kill the malaria parasite, the BBC reported.

“These results are very promising and show that genetically engineering mosquitoes in this way has a clear impact on the parasites’ ability to multiply,” said Professor Bob Sinden of Imperial College London, who co-authored the study published in PLoS Pathogens.

The mosquito is a critical host to malaria parasites. When it feeds on the blood of an infected human, it picks up the parasites, which then develop in its stomach and is passed on when it bites another human.

The protein lectin, which is produced by the sea cucumber – a Chinese delicacy – is poisonous to the malaria parasites.

Early signs suggest the protein could work against more than one of the four different parasites that cause malaria in humans. But because an effective solution requires removing all parasites in mosquitoes, the method is not practical yet, said an Imperial College statement.

Malaria is a deadly disease that infects about 500 million people a year and kills more than a million, the statement said.

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