Bill Gates may have been kidding when he decided to release mosquitos at a speaking engagement earlier this year to help further the malaria cause, but in an unconventional experiment conducted in the Netherlands, researchers did just that ... and found it to be highly successful. In a small study involving 15 volunteers, scientists used mosquitos as vehicles to deliver live modified malaria parasites. When exposed to unmodified parasites later, the infected group was found to be fully protected while the group that was not developed malaria.
All participants were given the drug chloroquine for three months to ensure the parasites did not grow in the bloodstream. Once a month, volunteers were exposed to about a dozen mosquitos, with one group of 10 exposed to malaria infected mosquitos and other other comparison group exposed to uninfected mosquitos. At the end of the three month period, participants stopped taking chloroquine and two months later, were exposed to mosquitos infected with malaria. No one in the infected group developed malaria, while all five in the comparison group did develop the disease.
The mosquitos did not deliver a vaccine, but rather, volunteers developed immunity as a result of repeated exposure to the disease. "It's more of an in-depth study of the immune factors that might be able to generate a very protective type of response," Dr. John Treanor, vaccine specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., who had no role in the study, tells the Associated Press.
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