Researchers: Safer Pesticide To Battle Malaria Carrying Mosquitoes Being Developed

Linda Young | 21 Dec 2006
All Headline News

Washington, D.C. (AHN) - Researchers say a new discovery could lead to a safer pesticide to kill mosquitoes and save many of the 3,000 children killed by malaria every day in Sub Saharan Africa. A prototype of a new, safer pesticide that targets malaria-carrying mosquitoes is being developed, according to a Mayo Clinic researcher.

Malaria was once almost controlled by the pesticide DDT that was banned in many countries decades ago because it also harmed the environment and mammals, including humans.

Yuan-Ping Pang, Ph.D., a chemist and expert in computer-aided molecular design at Mayo Clinic discovered a site within mosquitoes that could be targeted in developing pesticides. That way the pesticides would be toxic to mosquitoes and not affect humans or other mammals.

Pang identified two unique amino acid residues called cysteine (286) and arginine (339). Those amino acids exist in three mosquito species and the German cockroach and do not exist in mammals, according to a press release.

"These findings suggest that new pesticides can be designed to target only the mosquito enzyme. Such pesticides could be used in small quantities to harm mosquitoes, but not mammals," Pang said in a statement. "We've developed a blueprint for a pesticide that could incapacitate malaria-carrying mosquitoes. We are currently making a prototype of the new pesticide."

Malaria is serious problem and earlier this month President George W. Bush emphasized that fact at the White House Summit on Malaria. During the summit Bush said it provided "a historic opportunity to end the suffering of millions," according to a White House press release.

He continued, "We're here because eradicating malaria is an urgent calling. The disease claims 1.2 million lives every year....Malaria kills 3,000 children in Africa every day. Parents grieve for their sons and daughters, communities mourn, and developing countries lose generations of productive citizens."

If Pang succeeds in developing a safer pesticide it will help millions of children under five years of age and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. Those are the groups with the highest incidence of malaria because of immature and weakened immunity respectively, according to the African Medical and Research Foundation.

The health development organization has field operations in five African nations and is based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Pang's findings appear in the current issue of "PLoS One," a new open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science.