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Mosquito immune system mapped to help fight malaria

Christian Fernsby ▼ | August 31, 2020
Scientists have created the first cell atlas of mosquito immune cells, to understand how mosquitoes fight malaria and other infections.
Mosquito
Mosquito   Scientists have created the first cell atlas
Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Umeå University, Sweden and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA, discovered new types of mosquito immune cells, including a rare cell type that could be involved in limiting malaria infection.

They also identified molecular pathways implicated in controlling the malaria parasite.

Published in Science, the findings offer opportunities for uncovering novel ways to prevent mosquitoes from spreading the malaria parasite to humans and break the chain of malaria transmission.

The atlas will also be a valuable resource for researchers trying to understand and control other mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue or Zika.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease that affects more than 200 million people worldwide and caused an estimated 405,000 deaths in 2018 alone, the majority of which were children under five.

It is caused by Plasmodium parasites, which are spread via the bites of female Anopheles mosquitoes.

Breaking the chain of transmission from human to mosquito to human is key for reducing the burden of malaria.

The mosquito immune system controls how the insect can tolerate or transmit parasites or viruses, however little is known about the exact cell types involved.

In this first in-depth study of mosquito immune cells, a team of researchers studied two types of mosquito: Anopheles gambiae, which transmits malaria, and Aedes aegypti, which carries the viruses that causes Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika infections.

Using cutting edge single cell techniques the researchers analysed more than 8,500 individual immune cells to see exactly which genes were switched on in each cell and identify specific molecular markers for each unique cell type.

The team discovered there were at least twice as many types of immune cell than had previously been seen, and used the markers to find and quantify these cells in circulation, or on the gut and other parts of the mosquito.

They were then able to follow how Anopheles mosquitoes and their immune cells reacted to infection with the Plasmodium parasite.


 

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