Antimalarials in mosquitoes overcome Anopheles and Plasmodium resistance to malaria control strategies

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The spread of insecticide resistance in Anopheles mosquitoes and drug resistance in Plasmodium parasites is contributing to a global resurgence of malaria, making the generation of control tools that can overcome these issues an urgent public health priority. We recently showed that the transmission of Plasmodium falciparum parasites can be efficiently blocked when exposing Anopheles gambiae females to antimalarials deposited on a treated surface, with no negative consequences on mosquito fitness. Here, we demonstrate this approach can overcome the hurdles of insecticide resistance in mosquitoes and drug resistant in parasites. We show that the transmission-blocking efficacy of mosquito-targeted antimalarials is maintained when field-derived, insecticide resistant Anopheles are exposed to the potent cytochrome b inhibitor atovaquone, demonstrating that this drug escapes insecticide resistance mechanisms that could potentially interfere with its function. Moreover, this approach prevents transmission of field-derived, artemisinin resistant P. falciparum parasites ( Kelch13 C580Y mutant), proving that this strategy could be used to prevent the spread of parasite mutations that induce resistance to front-line antimalarials. Atovaquone is also highly effective at limiting parasite development when ingested by mosquitoes in sugar solutions, including in ongoing infections. These data support the use of mosquito-targeted antimalarials as a promising tool to complement and extend the efficacy of current malaria control interventions.

Significance Statement

Effective control of malaria is hampered by resistance to vector-targeted insecticides and parasite-targeted drugs. This situation is exacerbated by a critical lack of chemical diversity in both interventions and, as such, new interventions are badly needed. Recent laboratory studies have shown that an alternative approach based on treating Anopheles mosquitoes directly with antimalarial compounds can render the vector incapable of transmitting the Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria. While promising, showing that mosquito-targeted antimalarials remain effective against wild parasites and mosquitoes, including drug- and insecticide-resistant populations, respectively, is crucial to the future viability of this approach. In this study, carried out in the US and Burkina Faso, we show that antimalarial exposure is highly effective, even against extremely resistant mosquitoes, and can block transmission of drug-resistant parasites. By combining lab, and field-based studies in this way we have demonstrated that this novel approach can be effective in areas where conventional control measures are no longer as effective.

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