Exciting new malaria research

This is very exciting news, and hopefully will lead to more research:

“The team found that humans and the mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite share the same complex carbohydrate, heparan sulfate. In both humans and mosquitoes, heparan sulfate is a receptor for the malaria parasite, binding to the parasite and giving it quick and easy transport through the body…“The discovery allows us to think differently about preventing the disease,” Linhardt said. “If we can stop heparan sulfate from binding to the parasite in mosquitoes, we will not just be treating the disease, we will be stopping its spread completely.”

Malaria parasites are extremely finicky about their hosts, Linhardt explained. Birds, rodents, humans, and primates all can be infected with malaria, but each species is infected by a different species of mosquito — and each of those mosquitoes is infected by a different malaria parasite. In other words, there needs to be a perfect match at the molecular basis for malaria to spread from one species to another, Linhardt said. Researchers have long understood this deadly partnership, but the molecular basis for the match had never been determined.

“The discovery marks a paradigm shift in stopping malaria,” Linhardt said “Now, we can work to develop an environmentally safe, inexpensive way to block infection in mosquitoes and not have to worry about drug side effects in humans.”

Full citation and paper: J. Biol. Chem., Vol. 282, Issue 35, 25376-25384, August 31, 2007.  Mosquito Heparan Sulfate and Its Potential Role in Malaria Infection and Transmission.

Cicadas Attack Japan!

That’s some serious Cicada Action documented in this week’s Nature:

A cicada known as the kumazemi is descending on Japan en masse, deafening the citizens and wreaking havoc on the country’s fibre-optic system. The 6- to 7-centimetre-long black cicada (Cryptotympana facialis) inhabits western Japan and subtropical regions of eastern Asia. This August is expected to be the largest and noisiest cicada summer in the insect’s four-year cycle…..

Measured at 90.4 decibels at another Osaka park last year, this year the same spot is expected to hit 94 decibels — decibels follow a logarithmic scale, so that’s more than double the volume. Prolonged exposure to this level of noise can cause deafness.

The kumazemi are also cutting households off from their Internet. Apparently mistaking fibre-optic cables for withered branches, they have been punching their one-millimetre-diameter ovipositors into the cables and laying eggs. In at least 1,000 cases over the past two years, the cicadas have either severed the cable or opened up a hole, allowing water to seep in.

This has to be one of the coolest news items ever–I love how the cicadas think our technology is part of nature. And then destroy it :)

No word on whether Godzilla is involved behind the scenes.