It's well known that mosquitoes spread malaria, but have you ever seen exactly how mosquitos manage it?
One group at the Institute Pasteur that is studying malaria has captured amazing intravital video microscopy of mosquitoes searching for blood vessels inside the host's skin.
The mosquito's mouth parts are not the single needle that we perceive, but instead are a complex utensil composed of a pair of mandibles and a pair of maxillae, as well as two parallel tubes that make up the central needle. All of the parts are flexible and controllable by the mosquito- you can watch it maneuver around obstacles, and clean itself.
Mosquitoes infected with the Plasmodium parasite were more persistent in searching for blood vessels than the control group, which probably increases the chances of the host to become infected. The parasites remained in the dermis for 18 hours after infection, in pools of mosquito saliva, which is immunosuppressive and may also contribute to parasite survival in the host organism.
While much collaborative research is dedicated to drug discovery and repositioning efforts to inhibit the parasite, this group is concentrating on the one step that initiates every case of malaria- the mosquito bite.
“I have submitted a grant application to investigate aspects of the interactions between mosquitoes, hosts and parasites,” says professor Logan.
The proposed research on host, vector, and parasite interactions gives hope for new approaches to blocking pathogen transmission, while overcoming the resistance to chloroquine, the benchmark anti-malarial drug, becomes a greater challenge for drug discovery groups.