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A novel strategy to block malaria transmission

The most effective means to prevent the spread of malaria has been the use of bed nets sprayed with insecticide (long-lasting insecticidal nets). The increase in mosquito resistance to insecticides is thus a real risk for the spread of malaria. Here, Flaminia Catteruccia and colleagues report that Plasmodium infections in the mosquito vector can be effectively cleared by exposing female Anopheles mosquitoes to surfaces or netting material treated with parasite inhibitors. Brief exposures of mosquito to low concentrations of the antimalarial drug atovaquone—a cytochrome b inhibitor—fully blocks the development of Plasmodium falciparum in Anopheles gambiae, and therefore transmission, without affecting mosquito survival or reproduction. Similar transmission-blocking effects are achieved with other cytochrome b inhibitors, which demonstrates that parasite mitochondrial function is a good target for parasite-killing. The authors model how these effects would affect malaria transmission dynamics, and predict that the inclusion of Plasmodium inhibitors on mosquito nets would significantly mitigate the global health effects of insecticide resistance.

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