Scientists from Umeå and the United States have created the first cell atlas of mosquito immune cells, in an attempt to understand how mosquitoes fight malaria and other infections. The scientists have discovered a rare immune cell type that could be involved in limiting malaria infection and identified molecular pathways involved in controlling the malaria parasite. The results were published in the August 28, 2020 issue of Science. The article is titled “Mosquito Cellular Immunity at Single-Cell Resolution.” The study was conducted by scientists from Umeå University, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA. “Our results provide an opportunity to reveal new ways to break the chain of malaria transmission and prevent mosquitoes from spreading the malaria parasite to humans. “The atlas will also be a valuable resource for researchers trying to understand and control other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue or Zika,” says Oliver Billker, PhD, Professor at the research center Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS) at Sweden’s Umeå University, and joint senior author on the paper. Malaria is a life-threatening disease that affects more than 200 million people worldwide and caused an estimated 405,000 deaths in 2018 alone, the majority of which were children under five. It is caused by Plasmodium parasites, which are spread via the bites of female Anopheles mosquitoes. Breaking the chain of transmission from human to mosquito to human is key for reducing the burden of malaria. The mosquito immune system controls how the insect can tolerate or transmit parasites or viruses, however little is known about the exact cell types involved.
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