How about this role reversal – vaccinating humans to protect mosquitoes from malaria?

For decades, scientists have been trying to develop a vaccine that prevents mosquitoes from spreading malaria among humans.

Now a unique approach — in which immunized humans transfer anti-malarial proteins to mosquitoes when bitten —called transmission-blocking vaccine (TBV) has been developed. With this immunized people would transmit anti-malarial proteins to the insects that bite them, reducing spread of the deadly disease

This biotechnology advancement reported in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, describes how University at Buffalo-led research team has devised a simple way to boost the efficacy of malarial TBVs.

A few malarial TBVs have shown promise but they have not been widely tested due to unwanted side effects or limited effectiveness. If successful, it could help reduce the spread of the disease, which kills more than 400,000 people annually, mostly small children.

“Malaria is a huge global problem. This approach — using a transmission-blocking vaccine — could be part of a suite of tools that we use to tackle the disease,” says the study’s lead author, Jonathan Lovell, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, a joint program of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

Malaria spreads when a mosquito carrying the disease bites someone and transmits the malaria parasite. Later, when a non-infected mosquito bites this person, the parasite passes to the mosquito. That mosquito later bites a new victim and infects them with the parasite. TBVs are expected to break this vicious cycle of malaria’s spread.

The development of effective TBVs — combined with bug nets, insecticides, anti-parasitic drugs and others types of vaccines — could help control malaria.

While a TBV would not directly prevent an immunized person from getting infected, the vaccine would reduce the odds that people living in that community get malaria, hopefully to zero.

Prior research in this area has focused on techniques like genetic engineering and chemical binding of toxin proteins to boost TBV responses. Each strategy has potential, but they’re also time- and resource-consuming.

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