Targeting vector-transmitted parasites

Many parasites like the ones that infect humans with malaria, sleeping sickness, and leishmaniasis spend part of their life-cycles developing inside insect vectors before being transmitted to a human host. This developmental period inside the insect represents an attractive point of attack for researchers trying to prevent the spread of disease.
 
Recent research reveals the strategies that these vector-transmitted parasites use to optimize their growth and transmission to an eventual human host.

In a Review article in Science Keith Matthews explains how parasites interact with a network of signals between their hosts, their vectors and even other parasites to monitor their environment and adapt to any unfavorable conditions they encounter. Parasites have evolved over time to manipulate their insect vectors to their own advantage, for example by altering their vectors feeding behaviour. But the parasites must keep their insect vectors alive and in good enough health to transmit the parasites into a host. The integration of such molecular data with evolutionary and mathematical analyses will be necessary to devise new effective and safe approaches to preventing some deadly diseases that are transmitted by such parasites.

 

Article Controlling and Coordinating Development in Vector-Transmitted Parasites available online from Science

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