Researchers find key to malaria

July 6, 2007 at 12:45 PM
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DALLAS, July 6 (UPI) -- Researchers in Texas have discovered why some mosquitoes are resistant to malaria, a leading cause of death worldwide.

Scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas focused on TEP1, a protein in the mosquito's immune system, said a study reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

When a mosquito is infected with a parasite that causes malaria, TEP1 is capable of grabbing on to the parasite's surface and targeting it for termination, said Dr. Richard Baxter, the study's lead author.

"TEP1 is a scout that finds the enemy, in this case malarial parasites, then plants a homing signal on the enemy and calls in the air strike," Baxter said.

Understanding how some mosquitoes fend off malaria could lead to eliminating the mosquito's ability to transmit malaria, Baxter said.

Malaria kills more than 1 million people each year, primarily children in Africa, said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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