Researchers Infect Fruit Fly With Malaria

    In a major advance in understanding and treating malaria, medical researchers managed to infect the fruit fly with the parasite that causes malaria.

    In the wild, malaria is usually transmitted by mosquitoes. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are very difficult to study in a laboratory setting. Fruit flies, however, have been extensively studied in the laboratory and are commonly used in genetic studies.

    Because of that, the entire genome for the fruit fly has been decoded and scientists will be able to better understand the various stages that the malaria parasite goes through as it infects its host.

    “Our ability to grow Plasmodium in the fruit fly is especially fortunate because scientists recently determined the complete sequences of the Drosophila genome,” Dr. Mohammed Shahabuddin of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told the BBC. “So now we can scan the entire genome and identify the specific genes involved in the fruit fly’s response to Plasmodium, and then look for the corresponding genes in the mosquito.”

    Any advance in treating malaria would be very welcome as the disease is still one of the leading killers in the world, causing between 1.5 and 2.7 million deaths each year. Most of those deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa where malaria is still the leading cause of death.


Infected flies boost malaria hope. The BBC, June 30, 2000.

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