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Tackling the Most Difficult Diseases

Vector-borne infectious diseases such as malaria and yellow fever have continued to evade attempts to find lasting programmes of prevention. This article examines the potential of genomics to open new strategies to fight such diseases. Scientists are focusing on genetics in order to analyse and ulitimately modify the parasites and their vectors. Such strategies will aim to complement other forms of healthcare and vaccine, drug and pesticide development.

The article predates recent progress on mosquito sequencing, and traces the earlier efforts of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to map the genome of the malaria-transmitting mosquito. The article also describes research into producing a DNA vaccine encoding a saliva protein found in sand flies infected with the leishmania parasite.

The practical dilemmas of field-testing are also covered. For example, how do you convince people not to use mosquito nets in order to facilitate studies of transgenic mosquitos?