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Drug-Resistant Malaria can infact African Mosquitoes


A drug-resistant malaria parasite found in South East Asia can also infect mosquito species in Africa

The transmission experiments were carried out in a laboratory, but they suggest the spread of this deadly strain into the continent is possible. The scientist say the consequence of this world would be dire, putting millions of lives at risk.


Jumping Species

This drug-resistant parasite was first seen in Cambodia in 2008, but has since reported across South East Asia. But this is not the first time this has happened. Since the 1950s, drug after drug has stopped working as the malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum) has evolved. And each time, the problem has first emerged on the Thai-Cambodia border before spreading around the world. 

"All of us are very concerned about these parasites spreading to Africa, as parasites did in the past, but there was no reason to think these very highly differentiated parasites could even infect the major vector in Africa," said Dr Fairhurst.



The research carried out laboratory experiments, infecting two species of Asian Mosquitoes and Africa's main malaria-carrying mosquitoes - Anophles coluzzii (formerly called A. gambiae M)- with the drug-resistant strain.

"We were quite amazed that not only was (A, coluzzii) readily infected, it also didn't really seem to be less infected that he two native South East Asian vectors," said Dr. Fairhurst.

"It quite surprising to us - we thought maybe we'd see at least some reduction" 

The researchers say the parasite's ability to jump species that are separated by millions years of evolution is concerning. 

And while such transmission has not been seen yet in the wild, this study shows that is possible. Dr Fairhurst said: "This is just one more piece to the puzzle that looks like a worldwide catastrophe.

"We have parasites that are not only resistant to Artemisinin ... they have no barrier to infecting multiple different mosquitoes and then just can't be good for any kind of containment effort."

Artmisinin has played a key role in the fight against malaria. The World Health Organization estimates that in the last 15 years malaria death rates fell by 60% globally and 6.2 million malaria deaths have been averted.

Scientists warn that thy cannot afford to lose this drug.


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