Malaria Parasite Development in a Drosophila Model

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Science  30 Jun 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5475, pp. 2376-2379
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5475.2376

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Malaria is a devastating public health menace, killing over one million people every year and infecting about half a billion. Here it is shown that the protozoan Plasmodium gallinaceum, a close relative of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, can develop in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Plasmodium gallinaceum ookinetes injected into the fly developed into sporozoites infectious to the vertebrate host with similar kinetics as seen in the mosquito host Aedes aegypti. In the fly, a component of the insect's innate immune system, the macrophage, can destroy Plasmodia. These experiments suggest that Drosophila can be used as a surrogate mosquito for defining the genetic pathways involved in both vector competence and part of the parasite sexual cycle.

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