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Malaria Lab Fights Killer



Malaria kills one million, and sickens 500 million people every year. With ten percent of the world population at risk, people of faith and science are committed to stopping malaria deaths. Lilla Marigza talks to researchers committed to the cause.

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(Locator: Baltimore, Maryland)

Researcher Andrea Henkel hopes her meticulous work with mosquitoes will someday stop the spread of malaria. Her motivation is personal.

Andrea Henkel, Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: "Two summers ago I spent in West Africa, in Togo. That summer was particularly rainy, so a lot of children ended up falling ill to malaria and I watched countless children die, especially a few that were really close to me."

Henkel herself came down with malaria.

Andrea Henkel: "I was lucky to have a strong immune system that was able to fight it, but it really empowered me to want to look at infectious diseases, especially in the developing world."

Henkel is a research fellow at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute in Baltimore.

Andrea Henkel: "We're looking at a novel drug that&ellipsis;"
Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena: (swats bug)
Andrea Henkel: "Oh, that's bad news."
Cameraperson: "What was that?"
Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena: "A stray mosquito."

The lab breeds 10,000 mosquitoes a week.

Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: "Here are the trays where the larvae grow. And the food is cat food. Friskies."

Scientists like Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena have devoted their careers to malaria research.

Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena: "We started working with bacteria that live inside the mosquito midgut."

Researchers have found a way to prevent infected mosquitoes from spreading the malaria parasite by altering bacteria in the insects' digestive system. The bug still bites, but the parasite never makes it out of the mosquito.

Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena: "This type of approach has shown a lot of promise. We can show that those genetically modified bacteria can indeed inhibit parasite development in the mosquito almost completely."

Jacobs-Lorena says labs all over the world are working on ways to slow the spread of malaria in mosquito populations, but technology is only one piece of the puzzle.

Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena: "I think there's a strong consensus among all scientists, the only way where we will have a world with no malaria is if we integrate all possible approaches. So we have to work with insecticides, including insecticide impregnated bed nets."

The scientific community has found partners in the faith community. The United Methodist Church's Imagine No Malaria initiative goes into communities with a comprehensive strategy that includes distributing bed nets and draining standing water where mosquitoes breed.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo spearheaded the excavation of 25 miles of canal.

Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo, North Katanga Annual Conference: "No more mosquitoes, now. As it used to be. All these houses, when you go in you will find mosquito nets and now with the canal, including mosquito nets, many lives are being saved."

Andrea Henkel: "Not just one of these efforts is eventually going to eradicate malaria. It has to be this confluence of ideas, and that's what eventually will prevent all these children from dying."


For more information on how you can prevent malaria deaths, visit

Posted: April 25, 2011