Researchers from Imperial College London recently identified that the malaria parasite uses a specific molecule, the PIMMS43, to evade the mosquito’s immune system, enabling it to infect humans. The discovery can help the development of future vaccines or genetically modified mosquitoes resistant to PIMMS43.
Now the group of scientists is working to produce antibodies capable of blocking the action of this molecule to prevent parasite transmission. They have already tested these antibodies in parasite-infected blood, which was then fed to mosquitoes, and the results are promising. The number of parasites able to survive the mosquito’s immune response reduced significantly - another example of the importance of continuous investment in research and innovation.
Understanding the malaria parasite’s life cycle
The malaria parasite enters the mosquito when it bites an infected human. Then, the parasite must infect its gut tissue and mature for several days, before infecting a human when the mosquito bites again. This is only possible because the recently discovered molecule blocks the insect’s defense system.