insecticide removes malaria-spreading mosquitoesScientists from the University of California, Riverside have discovered that a new type of insecticide removes malaria-spreading mosquitoes safely. Unlike common insecticides, this new technology is comprised of a neurotoxin (PMP1) that is toxic to the Anopheles but has no effect on humans or any other living organism. The development of this insecticide is a leap forward for the scientific community, as it has the potential to drastically reduce the number of individuals—roughly 220 million—who contract malaria each year.

Impact of Malaria

Malaria is one of the world’s deadliest diseases. Scientists estimate that malaria kills over 425,000 individuals per year, mainly those living in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Children and pregnant women are at the greatest risk for malaria transmission because pregnancy decreases immunity and children have not yet developed partial immunity. However, cases occur in individuals of all ages and gender. One of the most common and effective solutions for malaria prevention is to provide individuals with bed nets to prevent mosquito bites during sleep. The most foolproof method is the treatment of bed nets with an insecticide that kills mosquitoes on contact. Past insecticides have shown some negative side effects such as rashes, blisters and itching. The new proposed insecticide removes malaria-spreading mosquitoes with PMP1 and has no side effects, making it a safe way to protect individuals from the Anopheles mosquito.

Finding and Isolating the Bacteria

While the development of the PMP1 insecticide is a relatively new innovation, scientists have long understood the ability of the Paraclostridium Bifermentans bacteria to subdue the Anopheles mosquito. However, they have been unable to understand the protein that enables this protection in the past. Sarjeet Gill, professor of molecular, systems, and cell biology at the University of California, Riverside, led a research team to study this effect. The team placed the bacteria under radiation, creating several strains of Paraclostridium Bifermentans that could not produce PMP1. They compared these radiated nontoxic strains to the non-radiated toxic strains, which helped them identify PMP1, the protein in the toxic strains that is lethal to the Anopheles. They plan to use PMP1 to produce the insecticide.

The team has applied to patent their new discovery and are looking for partners to help them develop and manufacture the new insecticide for use in countries with high malaria risk. The insecticide has immense promise with no negative side effects, and because it is plant-based, not synthetic chemical-based. This means that it is highly unlikely that the Anopheles will develop a resistance to the insecticide.

Conclusion & Impact on the Global Poor

The new insecticide laced with PMP1 has the potential to drastically improve living conditions for those at risk of malaria transmission. Malaria affects millions of individuals living in poverty every year, as many of these individuals do not have access to proper insecticide-treated bed nets. However, the when new insecticide removes malaria-spreading mosquitoes, it should provide an easy and affordable way to ensure that individuals living in poverty will be protected without negative side effects and with a very minimal chance of the Anopheles mosquito developing resistance. The insecticide is an extremely promising innovation, one that has the potential to end the spread of malaria.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Wikimedia

blum initiative
On Feb. 10, the UC Riverside School of Public Policy announced that it will launch the Blum Initiative on Global and Regional Poverty in the fall of 2015. The initiative is made possible by a gift from Richard Blum—former chairman of the UC Board of Regents—and matching donations from the UC Office of the President and UC Riverside Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox.

Part of the initiative’s mission is to focus its research on local poverty-related issues in the Inland Empire—the metropolitan area directly to the east of Los Angeles in which UC Riverside is situated.

“The Inland Empire has some of the highest poverty rates among the nation’s largest metropolitan areas,” Chancellor Wilcox explained.

Location is not UC Riverside’s only vested interest in poverty-reduction. According to Wilcox, 58 percent of the school’s undergraduate students receive need-based Pell grants. Over half of UC Riverside’s students are the first in their families to attend college.

“This initiative will help us conduct research, teaching and outreach that focuses attention on poverty in the region and will help policymakers and community-based organizations improve the lives of the poor in the Inland Empire,” Wilcox said.

While much of its research will be locally focused, the initiative also hopes to bridge the intellectual gap between global lessons and local applications.

“A program that builds on Riverside’s strengths and seeks to address local and regional poverty issues in the context of global lessons is an important endeavor that will benefit California and provide intellectual challenges and opportunities for UCR faculty and students,” said Janet Napolitano, UC President, speaking of the initiative.

Anil Deolalikar, developmental economist and founding dean of the UC Riverside School of Public Policy, stressed the importance of such a broad-based approach.

“Every place in the world has poverty and there are many places in the world that have tackled the problem of poverty with good results. We will be trying to glean lessons from around the world so that we can use some of those lessons to solve poverty problems here in the Inland Empire,” Deolalikar said.

According to Deolalikar, the initiative will also provide competitive seed grants to faculty with the best ideas for poverty-based action research.

“We will solicit ideas for poverty-related research in Inland Southern California that draw upon policy lessons from around the world. In this way, we hope to cross-fertilize the field of domestic U.S. poverty policy, which has evolved independently of the rich literature on—and innovative experiences of—global poverty.”

Parker Carroll

Sources: The Press Enterprise UCR Today
Photo: Berkeley