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Scientists continue to seek
better weapons against malaria. Each year the number of cases is in the
hundreds of millions worldwide. Around a million people die, most of them in
Africa. Economic losses from the disease amount to an estimated one percent of
the African economy each year.
George Dimopoulos is an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Malaria
Research Institute in Baltimore, Maryland says.
"Forty-two percent of the earth's population live in areas where malaria
transmitting mosquitoes exist. All of these people are in risk of being
infected with malaria. The sad thing is that the majority of people that are
killed by malaria are children because there immune system is not strong enough
to ward off this infection."
Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium. The organism is injected
into people through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Malaria can be treated,
but in many areas the parasites have become resistant to different drugs.
George Dimopoulos and his team are studying ways to make mosquitoes resist
infection by the parasite. There are hundreds of kinds of mosquitoes in the
world. Most do not spread malaria. Some have immune systems that kill
The researchers have developed a way to make genetic changes in the three
mosquito species known to spread malaria. The changes cause their systems to
attack the parasite, blocking its development. Other researchers are working on
ways to spread these genetically modified insects among mosquito populations.
Professor Dimopoulos says there is still a long way to go, but current malaria
research is highly promising.
A new vaccine is in final testing. So far it has proven effective at preventing
the disease in half of those vaccinated -- which is more than ever before.
And at the Malaria Institute at Macha in Zambia, researchers are developing an
easier way to identify malaria. The test uses saliva instead of blood to
diagnose the infection.
Current efforts in malaria control are mainly based on the use of insecticide
sprays and treated bed nets. But George Dimopoulos says malaria needs to be
attacked with drugs, with vaccines, with bed nets -- with whatever researchers
Professor GEORGE DIMOPOULOS says "Malaria needs to be attacked with
multiple weapons. There is not one magic bullet to control this disease."