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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Malaria genomes: The reaction
Child, AP
Malaria blights the lives of millions of children
Malaria is thought to afflict over 500 million people worldwide and cause nearly three million deaths each year, more than 90% of which occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

By cracking the genomes of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, and the primary mosquito that spreads it, Anopheles gambiae, scientists hope to be able to develop new drugs, vaccines, insecticides and insect repellents.

Many researchers believe the genomes represent an important landmark in science. However, not all are convinced. This is what scientists had to say.


This is an extraordinary moment in the history of science. At last, the enormous power of modern technology is penetrating the mysteries of an ancient disease, a disease that continues to kill millions. Now the most advanced tools of science are at last being trained on one of the biggest killers in the developing world.

Dr Carlos Morel, director of the World Health Organisation's Tropical Diseases Research Programme.


We are hopeful that this wealth of information will translate into new drugs, vaccines and insecticides that will more effectively control malaria and, ultimately, lift a burden of suffering from millions.

Dr Michael Gottlieb, a parasite expert at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.


If we can identify the receptors that mosquitoes use to smell humans, we should be able to design novel repellents and attractants that can substantially reduce the incidence of malaria, West Nile encephalitis, dengue and yellow fevers and other mosquito-borne diseases.

Dr Laurence Zwiebel, of Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, US.


This great discovery will make a massive difference to those of us working on a cure for malaria. It is like giving directions and a route map to someone who is hopelessly lost in the middle of a city. Now we can see we are and where we can go. In my area of research it will give us an insight into the gene that can be used to interfere with parasite development in the mosquito or the gene that is involved in sex determination of an insect.

Professor Andrea Crisanti, Imperial College London, UK.


I'm sceptical that the Anopheles mosquito genome will actually be useful in attempts to control malaria in very poor countries and I have a feeling that projects on the genome are done because molecular biologists think they can be done and are exciting to do. The justifications are then added on afterwards. One suggestion is that one could make tailor-made insecticides. However I doubt if these would be affordable by governments with health budgets of $5 per head per year for all diseases.

Professor Chris Curtis, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.


Determining the genome sequence of both the malarial parasite and the mosquito vector are massive achievements that bring the hope of eradication closer. The biggest challenge for the future will be in translating this high technology research into low technology control strategies that are appropriate for the developing world.

Professor Johnjoe McFadden, School of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Surrey, UK.


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