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Netting mosquitoes to prevent malaria

EAST LANSING, Mich. Michigan State University scientist Ned Walker is taking on one of the biggest killers in the worldmalaria. And he believes he can help win the battle to save lives, especially the lives of children.

With a recent $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Walker will lead a research team studying how insecticide-treated bed nets can disrupt the population dynamics of the parasite that causes the deadly disease, as well as the mosquito that transmits the parasite. The scientists will focus on an area of western Kenya.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, Malaria kills about 3,000 children each day in Africa. Research has shown that using bed nets may cut mortality in half.

A microbiology and molecular genetics and entomology researcher, Walker's research focuses on how infectious diseases are transmitted, especially those that use mosquitoes as a mechanism to spread.

"We'll be evaluating the effectiveness of the bed nets over the long term," Walker explained. "Malaria has resisted past attempts to control it. But the bed nets have emerged as a powerful and simple control tool. They only cost about $10 a piece. The big question is whether the bed nets will continue to work over time. That's what we'll be studying."

Bed nets have been high-profile recently. The Michigan State community, inspired by the work of Walkers team, is rallying to raise funds to buy bed nets and have them distributed in Africa through the fundraising campaign Nothing But Nets. Theyve set a $10,000 goal.

So far, Anopheles gambiae, the mosquito species that is responsible for transmitting malaria to humans in Africa, hasn't demonstrated any resistance to the insecticide used in the bed nets.

"It appears that the Anopheles gambiae population declines and doesn't recover," Walker said. "So the parasites that cause malaria shift into a different mosquito that feeds mainly on cattle. Since these

Contact: Ned Walker
Michigan State University

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