Malathion (chemathion, mala-spray) requires conversion to malaoxon (replacement of a sulfur atom with oxygen in vivo, conferring resistance to mammalian species). Malathion can be detoxified by hydrolysis of the carboxyl ester linkage by plasma carboxylesterases, and plasma car-boxylesterase activity dictates species resistance to malathion. The detoxification reaction is much more rapid in mammals and birds than in insects. Malathion has been employed in aerial spraying of relatively populous areas for control of Mediterranean fruit flies and mosquitoes that harbor and transmit viruses harmful to human beings (e.g., West Nile encephalitis virus). Evidence of acute toxicity from malathion arises only with suicide attempts or deliberate poisoning.
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