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Scientists have found a gene that shields mosquitoes against the malaria parasite. They say the discovery could help create a chemical spray to protect humans from the disease.

The researchers, from Johns Hopkins University in the United States, say the sprn6 gene is only switched on when mosquitoes harbour the malaria parasite. Once activated, the gene helps limit the number of parasites the mosquito carries.

The team hopes to develop a chemical spray that would enhance activation of the gene. By greatly reducing the number of malaria parasites in mosquitoes, it could stop the parasites being transmitted to people through their bite.

Other malaria researchers say that more studies are needed, and that such a spray would be one of many tools, including bednets and drugs, used to fight the disease.

The research is published online this week by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Link to full BBC Online news story

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