Scientists close to isolating malaria genes that kill 2 million worldwide

THE BATTLE against malaria, which kills about two millionpeople a year, has entered a new phase with the publication of the first genetic map of the infectious microbe.

Scientists believe the map, published in the journal Nature Genetics, will boost the search for new vaccines. However, the question of who will own the patents on any commercial discoveries from the project is raised by the presence of Craig Venter on the team of 15 scientists who have produced the map. Dr Venter is engaged in the race to sequence the entire human genome and his company, Celera Genomics, has made no secret of the fact that it wants to patent as many genes as possible to exploit future commercial gains.

Malaria is caused by a blood parasite, plasmodium, which has a complicated life cycle involving the infection of both humans and its "vector" species, the mosquito. Plasmodium goes through stages of development in its host species and this, with its ability to develop drug resistance, has made it hard to combat. By finding the precise sequence of genetic "letters" that make up plasmodium's 7,000 genes, scientists hope to find ways of fighting it with tailor-made drugs and vaccines.

"Once we know all the proteins the parasite makes, we'll know how to attack it," said Dr Sharen Bowman, who works on sequencing the malaria genome at the Sanger Centre in Cambridge. The genetic map of the most lethal form of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, gives scientists such as Dr Bowman a chance to double-check the correct position of a gene on each malarial chromosome.

Scientists hunt for genes by chopping up chromosomes into smaller, overlapping segments. The new "optical" map is made by sticking the malaria chromosomes to a glass slide and cutting them up in situ - a quick way of seeing the correct sequence. "The map is a completely independent way of checking that our chromosome segments are in the right order," Dr Bowman said.

The map was pieced together by a team from several American institutes, including the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland, to which Dr Venter is affiliated. Dr Bowman said the international consortium of scientists is publishing the information as soon as it is discovered, which should prevent other individuals from patenting the same data. One area of intense commercial interest and research is the hunt for the malaria gene that has enabled the parasite to become resistant to chloroquine, the drug that was the first line of defence against the illness.

The fastest-growing strain of meningitis could be eliminated from the population within 14 months, the Government's chief medical officer said yesterday. Professor Liam Donaldson said a mass vaccination programme launched yesterday against meningitis C would offer protection to all the country's 14 million children by December next year.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
news
Life & Style
tech
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Arts & Entertainment
film
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal