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Scientists are trying to find a new malaria vaccine by sticking people’s forearms over a box full of mosquitoes.
Researchers at the University of Washington are using mosquitoes to inject human participants with genetically modified Plasmodium parasites that stop them from getting sick. However, their bodies produce antibodies that make them capable of fighting the real disease.
“We use the mosquitoes like they’re 1,000 small flying syringes,” said Dr. Sean Murphy, a University of Washington physician, in a recent paper. Murphy is not planning to vaccinate people by using mosquitoes. Instead, the practice will only be used in clinical trials, although using live mosquitoes to feed on the subjects is considered arcane.
The team chose to use the mosquitos because injections of the modified parasite via needles are more expensive and time-consuming, according to NPR. Moreover, Dr. Kirsten Lyke of the University of Maryland School of Medicine told NPR she believes the use of a live parasite is “a total game changer” while noting that “all things old become new again.”
WEST NILE VIRUS OVERLOOKED DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC? PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERT CITES SIMILAR SYMPTOMS
One test subject claimed she put her forearm over a box full of at least 200 mosquitos. The trial includes 26 people, with some of them showing signs of protection against malaria months later.
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“My whole forearm swelled and blistered,” Carolina Reid told NPR. “My family was laughing, asking like, ‘why are you subjecting yourself to this?’
Last year, the World Health Organization approved the first malaria vaccination called GlaxoSmithKline’s RTS but is only 30-40% effective.
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