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Medicine Technology

Robots and Irradiated Parasites Enlisted In the Fight Against Malaria 84

Posted by samzenpus
from the closer-to-the-cure dept.
First time accepted submitter einar.petersen (1178307) writes "Sanaria is a biotechnology company that has developed a new malaria vaccine. To produce the vaccine Sanaria cultivates mosquitos in a sterile environment and infects them with Plasmodium falciparum. When the mosquitos are chock-full of Pf sporozoites, the company irradiates them to weaken the parasites. Workers then herd up the mosquitos, chop off their heads and squeeze out their salivary glands, where the parasites prefer to live the better to port over to the mosquito’s next victim. They retrieve the weakened parasites from these tiny glands, filter out other contaminants and gather them up into an injectable vaccine. Sanaria’s method faces the additional challenge that dissecting the little buggers is tedious. Researchers can dissect 2-3 mosquitos an hour, which is nowhere near enough to mass-produce a global vaccine. So two years ago, Sanaria began working with the Harvard Biorobotics Lab to develop a robot that could do the work faster."
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Robots and Irradiated Parasites Enlisted In the Fight Against Malaria

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  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday June 02, 2014 @09:19AM (#47146115) Homepage

    Wow.

    My wife just got malaria a few weeks ago while visiting Africa. She heard there was a vaccine in development, so I figured it was the usual weakened culture, but I had no idea it actually required dissecting mosquitoes.

    I also didn't realize it was Plasmodium falciparum. This is pretty amazing, as not only is falciparum the most deadly species, but it's also the one that responds least to current treatments. If successful (and mass-producible), this could be like the polio vaccine. It'd be a huge advancement in the health of malaria-threatened countries.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday June 02, 2014 @09:34AM (#47146165) Homepage

    She's still in Africa, so she went to a hospital, got tested in an hour, and walked out with appropriate drugs in hand. She was feeling better the next day, and now is doing just fine. Thanks for the concern, though.

    It helps that she's had malaria before (this is the third time, I think), so she recognized the symptoms immediately and knew to go to the hospital that day. In America, doctors aren't expecting to see malaria, and they aren't likely to recognize it, so treatment here is actually much more difficult.

  • by pauljlucas (529435) on Monday June 02, 2014 @09:36AM (#47146177) Homepage Journal
    I would have thought that one of the US Military (to protect service personnel), Bill Gates (isn't his foundation working on a malaria vaccine too?), or governments in malaria regions would fund this. The desired $250K is nothing for such sources.

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