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In the future, people relocating abroad might not have to worry about the international healthcare threat posed by malaria, following research into a birth control drug for mosquitoes.
Dr Richard Baxter, Yale University professor of chemistry, reported at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society that scientists have investigated how after mating, the male of the Anopheles species seals its sperm inside the female with a plug.
Researchers have therefore developed an approach that could stop this plug from forming and prevent the animals from successfully breeding, curtailing the spread of malaria.
While male Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes reproduce in airborne swarms, it is only the female of the species that bites people and is responsible for the transmission of malaria.
In 2009, Dr Flaminia Catteruccia at Imperial College London found the transglutaminase enzyme works by coagulating a protein called Plugin to form the plug and discovered blocking this prevents female mosquitoes from fertilising their eggs or storing sperm.
He collaborated with Dr Baxter's team at Yale in order to purify the enzyme and Plugin, enabling laboratory workers to reconstitute the enzyme and enabling experts to look for chemicals that prevent this reaction to happen.
Expatriate medical insurance covers travellers against malaria, which has infected more than 215 million men and women, kills 655,000 people every year and threatens three billion people across the globe.
"I think that there's a good chance that we will find a compound because there are many existing compounds that inhibit other transglutaminases," Dr Baxter said.
"Ideally, it would be a substance that could be fed to males, sterilizing them so that they mate but no offspring result," he added.
This pest-control technique is known as the Sterile Insect Technique and was first used in the southern US in an attempt to control the screwworm fly, which once cost the cattle industry millions of dollars.
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