A scientist at the Pasteur Institute studies
mosquitos in order to advance research
on malaria.

Laser Guns Become Weapon in Fight Against Malaria

March 16, 2009 01:59 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
Scientists have gone high-tech in their quest to eliminate malaria, developing lasers to kill mosquitoes.

Rocket Scientists Take on Mosquitoes

The Wall Street Journal reports that astrophysicists in Washington state are fine-tuning a laser beam that could be used to target and kill mosquitoes. Eventually, they hope the technology could help reduce the incidence of malaria around the world.

The idea for the “Weapon of Mosquito Destruction” is based on the Star Wars plan, devised during the administration of President Ronald Reagan to protect the United States from a nuclear attack, according to London paper The Times. Scientists Lowell Wood and Edward Teller worked together on the project, speculating that lasers could protect the country under the threat of Soviet weapons.

President Reagan supported the idea, but Sen. Ted Kennedy ridiculed the plan as “Star Wars,” and the moniker stuck.
Star Wars was reexamined when Bill Gates asked former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold to review new ways to fight malaria, according to an article on Scientists seem enthused about the possibilities.

“We like to think back then we made some contribution to the ending of the Cold War,” Jordin Kare, an astrophysicist who once worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told The Wall Street Journal, speaking about the project. “Now we’re just trying to make a dent in a war that’s actually gone on a lot longer and claimed a lot more lives.”

Related Topic: Are mosquitoes the answer to fighting malaria?

Mosquitoes become carriers of malaria by biting people infected with the disease. Malaria spreads when these infected mosquitoes bite uninfected people.

Scientists have learned, however, that the immune system of a mosquito is highly equipped to fight the malaria parasite. When proteins called LRIM1 and APL1C detect the malaria parasite in a mosquito, they activate another protein called TEP1. The TEP1 protein binds to the parasite and eliminates 80-90 percent of the problem. Scientists are hoping they can use this knowledge to help the mosquitoes eliminate the remaining parasites in their systems as well.

Reference: Malaria; bed nets; mosquitoes


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