Chromatography Boosts Malaria Control Efforts
Apr 02 2015 Read 1201 Times
Despite being around for many millennia, malaria still remains as one of the biggest killers on the planet. The World Health Organisation estimates that a child is killed by the disease every minute, and in 2013, as many as 750,000 people died as a result of it. Clearly, it is still a major health concern.
However, progress is being made. Scientists are working hard to produce new vaccines, cures and preventative measures – in 2013, a new vaccine against malaria was successfully trialled in mice in Queensland, Australia. The drug is still in the process of undergoing human trials, but is thought to be cheap to manufacture, and if successful in humans, could be an effective solution in the poorer parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America where malaria is most prevalent.
Prevention Better than Cure
Even better than a vaccine, though, would be a preventative measure to stop malaria being contracted in the first place. With this in mind, scientists have long been attempting to develop repellents and the suchlike to deter the likelihood of being bitten. However, a conglomerate of scientific bodies from different countries called OviART have taken a different approach to attempting to control the spread of the deadly disease.
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Durham University, the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Kenya have worked together to publish a paper in the Malaria Journal. Their aim? To isolate the secret ingredient which attracts pregnant female mosquitoes to a water source to lay her eggs.
If we are able to understand what draws a pregnant mosquito to a suitable birthing location immediately after feeding, we can take steps to eliminate her before they are laid, thus limiting the spread of the disease. Thanks to the wonders of chromatography, the OviART team believe they have done just that.
Chromatography Detects Cedrol as the Culprit
Author of the study Mike Okal explained their approach: “For the past six years, we have been studying how the major malaria-transmitting mosquito in Africa selects which pool to lay her eggs in, and asking how that choice could be manipulated so we can intercept and kill her before she lays hundreds of eggs.”
The team set up various water sources infused with different elements, from grasses to food types to soils, and detected which was more likely to attract pregnant mosquitoes by counting the number of larvae. One particular soil type was found to be twice as likely to receive mosquito eggs as the others, and analysis by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC-MS) isolated one particular chemical, cedrol, as being responsible for the odour which attracted the carriers of the disease.
This chemical was then used in lab-based and wild tests to confirm the results, and it was found that the caged mosquitoes were twice as likely to choose the cedrol-infused water as natural lake water. Meanwhile, in the wild, the mosquitoes were three times more likely to be drawn to the cedrol than other substances.
The Next Step
Now that the chemical has been isolated and identified, the next step in the process will be to determine how this information can allow us to attract and kill the pregnant mosquitoes, thus curbing the spread of malaria.
This is not the first time that the odour of a chemical has been demonstrated to have a magnetic effect on mosquitoes. Earlier this year, it was shown that a host already infected with the disease was more likely to attract mosquito bites, which could propagate the disease since uninfected insects could then become infected after feeding. For more information on the findings and how they could help us combat the disease, read this article: Fighting Malaria's Bad Air with Chromatography.
Image Source: Mosquitoes
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