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Genes of Most Deadly Malaria Form Decoded

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Richard Holt of Celera Genomics, Inc., in Rockville, Maryland, the lead author of the main paper in Science, said the results of this combined research offer insight into "pathways that are likely to be useful in finding points of intervention for developing new insecticides and transmission-blocking vaccines."

Some of the possible approaches to tackling malaria suggested by the authors include:

• Altering genes to overcome the parasite's resistance to anti-malarial drugs and the mosquito's resistance to certain insecticides.

• Killing mosquitoes via new targets.

• Blocking the manufacture of certain proteins and lipids that the female mosquito needs to aid the development of her eggs.

• Producing vaccines that could block transmission of the disease between the malarial parasite and the mosquito, perhaps by promoting human antibodies that would circulate in the bloodstream and be passed along to a mosquito when it infects someone.

• Altering the chemo-sensory ability of mosquitoes to find human hosts.

• Altering genetic characteristics that make the mosquitoes prime vectors for the disease.

Roll Back Malaria

While advances in areas such as these are important, they alone aren't likely to combat malaria. Public health officials and policymakers say a broad arsenal of weapons—a combination of drug treatment, vaccines, and mosquito control—will be required to significantly reduce transmission.

In 1998, the WHO, the United Nations Development Program, UNICEF, the World Bank, and many government and non-governmental organizations around the world launched a collaborative program called "Roll Back Malaria" to combat the disease and reduce the toll in human lives.

The scientists who released the genomic data this week said they hoped the information could be used to improve control of malaria in the coming decades and possibly make inroads against other mosquito-borne diseases, such as yellow fever and West Nile virus.

"It is our hope that researchers will use the genome sequences to accelerate the search for solutions to diseases affecting the most vulnerable of the world's population," said Malcolm Gardner, a geneticist at the Institute for Genomic Research and lead author of the P. falciparum paper in Nature.

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