More lethal than war no more?
October 22, 2010 8:30 AM   Subscribe

It's been suggested that the humble mosquito is responsible for more deaths than all the wars combined. Scientists working at the Planck institute are hoping to change this by using the mosquitoes themselves as a way to administer a malaria vaccine.

As malaria infects two hundred and fifty million, and kills between one and three million people each year (many children in sub Sahara Africa), if successful, this could be a huge shift in the way the virus is managed and potentially improve the quality of life for billions of people in temperate climates. [previous on malaria]
posted by quin (13 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This is a really cool and interesting development. I haven't the background in biology to make much more comment than that, but if we could really get mosquitoes to combat malaria, my sense of irony would find that utterly delicious. Also, I think it makes a lot more sense than spraying DDT everywhere, even though I understand why health organizations have advocated and started doing that again.
posted by bardophile at 8:42 AM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Science rocks, God sucks.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:43 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mosquitoes suck.
posted by pracowity at 8:55 AM on October 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

It's unclear to me how this would work. It's not a GM thing where they're introducing a modified species of mosquito that's carrying a vaccine. It sounds from the article like they basically expose you to a mosquito with garden variety malaria and give you an antibiotic at the same time. Am I missing anything?
posted by condour75 at 8:57 AM on October 22, 2010

This is much less cool than what I initially imagined, which was some sort of genetic jiujitsu that'd make mosquitoes themselves an innoculating agent.

Instead, it basically just says that if you're taking malaria-hostile antibiotics while malaria-carrying mosquitoes are eating at you, you probably won't get infected, on account of taking antibiotics at the time. This...doesn't seem like a new discovery.
posted by Drastic at 8:57 AM on October 22, 2010

Actually, it seems to me that if you have taken malaria-hostile antibiotics and then malaria-carrying mosquitoes bite you, not only do you not get infected at the time, but you gain immunity from future bites (six months later, without taking antibiotics at the same time).
posted by bardophile at 9:04 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I will now backpedal! It's still cool, depending on how long the lasting effect (subsequent exposures to malaria were protected against months after the combo antibiotic dosing) lasts in people. If it does work as intended, by giving a period of lasting protection from a single dose at the start of the rainy season, that is indeed nifty.
posted by Drastic at 9:05 AM on October 22, 2010

[Insert “What could possibly go wrong?” comment]
posted by nfg at 9:07 AM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

That is awesome.
posted by spaltavian at 9:33 AM on October 22, 2010

I just composed a "it'd be great if it worked, but.." kind of post and then I realized..

We're at war with malaria. We adapt our prophylaxis, it adapts. We do it again, it does it again. And so on, and so on, and so on.

But to have any real chance, we need to keep developing new methods of prophylaxis until we find a cure. This could be a new method of prophylaxis.

And that's great.
posted by Ahab at 9:50 AM on October 22, 2010

I would just like to point out, regarding the opening statement that "this could be a huge shift in the way the virus is managed" that malaria is not caused by a virus, but by a protozoan, speciffically a plasmodium, which resembles a paramecium.
posted by grizzled at 10:05 AM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yep. Not sure what I was thinking there. "Virus" should be "disease", or any number of other more accurate terms.
posted by quin at 11:30 AM on October 22, 2010

HOLD THE PHONE! Why don't they just FEED the tuna fish mayonnaise!?!
posted by airgirl at 8:49 AM on October 24, 2010

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