Immunizing Mosquitoes To Fight Malaria

Recent research conducted by a team of scientists has pointed to the possibility of stopping the spread of Malaria by immunizing the mosquitoes. The development comes at a time when several people are taking Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, as a protection against the Coronavirus.

Crux of the Matter

How Does Malaria Spread?
Malaria spreads in humans primarily by mosquito bites. It is spread by the bite of female Anopheles, which relies on human blood for survival. Plasmodium parasite, which causes malaria in humans, is spread when the female Anopheles bites an infected person and ends up injecting the subsequent person(s). Of all the Plasmodium Parasites, only 5 types cause malaria in humans.

The Research
In a research conducted by a team of scientists from the UK and Kenya, a microbe by the name Microsporidia MB was found in mosquitoes without the malarial parasite. Further research confirmed that the Microsporidia MB actually made the mosquitoes immune to the Malarial parasite.

How It Would Be Used?
While the research is at the primary stage, the experts have designed 2 main strategies to develop the required immune system in the mosquitoes:

  • Spores are generated by the Microsporidia which can be allowed to permeate the mosquitoes in large.
  • Alternatively, male mosquitoes could be injected with the microbe. The males would then spread it in the females by the process of fertilization.

The disease kills more than 400,000 people yearly, with Africa counting for more than 360,000 deaths alone. Moreover, most of the victims are children below the age of 5. WHO has warned that since 75% of anti-malarial drugs like Hydroxychloroquine are being used in the fight against Coronavirus, a lack of malarial medication can cause the number of deaths in Africa to increase to 769,000. African regions accounted for nearly 90% of all cases in 2018, whereas African regions and Southeast Asian regions accounted for more than 80% of deaths by Malaria in 2017.

The discovery of Microsporidia MB has provided a major boost in the fight against Malaria as recent studies have indicated a halt in its declining rate.

  • Sir Ronald Ross was a British medical doctor who received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1902 for his work on the transmission of malaria, becoming the first British Nobel laureate, and the first non-European by birth (he was born in India) to receive the Nobel. His discovery of the malarial parasite in the gastrointestinal tract of a mosquito in 1897 proved that malaria was transmitted by mosquitoes, and laid the foundation for the method of combating the disease.
  • In 2018 there were 228 million cases of malaria worldwide resulting in an estimated 405,000 deaths, approximately 93% of the cases, and 94% of deaths occurred in Africa. The prevalence of Malaria in Africa is estimated to result in a loss of $12 billion a year due to increased healthcare costs, lost ability to work, and negative effects on tourism.