Our greatest allies in the fight against malaria may be the mosquitoes themselves, find scientists.
The researchers found that mosquitoes have immune systems that actually kill 80 to 90 percent of the malaria parasites that enter the insect's bodies.
The discovery is part of an international effort to create a new generation of malaria treatments.
And researchers reckon that genetically modified, malaria-fighting mosquitoes or even antibodies injected into humans and "fed" back to mosquitoes, could someday be more effective at slowing the disease than today's simple mosquito nets.
As the populations of malaria-parasite are lower when inside mosquitoes, some experts believe that attacking malaria inside the insects-before it enters human hosts-is a more effective way to deal with the disease.
The plan could be brought to fruition only by understanding how the mosquito immune system fends off malaria.
Researchers have said that they have now worked out the mechanism that drives one of the mosquitoes' defenses.
George Christophides, biologist at Imperial College London, who co-authored the report said that three proteins in mosquito blood form a complex that "binds to a malaria parasite and punches holes through its membrane," which destroys the layer that protects the parasite and holds all its important parts together.
Earlier researchers had identified the three proteins and noticed that one of them seemed similar to microbe-killing proteins in other animals and in humans.
"But nobody had put the three together. Now we can show that there's a pathway in effect," National Geographic News quoted Christophides as saying.
Researchers said that a mosquito-up approach to malaria control is feasible in the long term and there are a couple of ways it could work.
In one scenario, scientists could create genetically modified mosquitoes, granting their immune systems pumped-up malaria-killing abilities.
The other option would be to develop antibodies that can fight the parasites' early, mosquito-dwelling forms-and "feed" the antibodies to the insects via human blood.
However, getting to these paradigm-shifting malaria prevention techniques isn't likely to be quick or easy.
The study has been published in the latest issue of the journal Science.