MAY 05, 2020 9:49 AM PDT

How a Microbe May Help Stop the Spread of Malaria

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Scientists have discovered a bacterium that lives in mosquitoes around Lake Victoria, and appears to block malaria (which is caused by a parasite that's also carried by mosquitoes). Researchers could not find a single mosquito that harbored both this bacterium and the malaria parasite. In the lab, mosquitoes were exposed to this microbe and then were protected against the malaria parasite (Plasmodium). Reporting in Nature Communications, an international team of researchers has suggested that this microbe, called Microsporidia MB, might be able to help stop the disease from infecting humans.

"Further studies will be needed to determine precisely how Microsporidia MB could be used to control malaria," noted Jeremy Herren, a researcher at the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology and the University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research.

Female mosquitoes can carry several different species of the malaria-causing Plasmodium parasite, which has a complicated life cycle that is only completed when the parasite reaches a human host. The World Health Organization estimated that globally, 228 million people were infected with malaria in 2018. The disease kills around 400,000 people every year.

The Microsporidia MB microbe was found when researchers were studying mosquitoes in the Lake Victoria area in Kenya. This bacterium lives in the gut and genitals of an estimated five percent of insects in the region. Once infected with Microsporidia MB, mosquitoes seem to carry it for the rest of their lives.

It's not yet known how the microbe prevents malaria from infecting a mosquito. It may help boost their immune system or make metabolic changes that are detrimental to the Plasmodium parasite.

The research team estimated that 40 percent of mosquitoes in any given area would need to carry the microbe to stop malaria from spreading. The microbe can be passed naturally from one mosquito to another and from female to offspring.

Mosquito bite Creit: Prof. Frank Hadley Collins / CDC

The scientists have begun to consider how Microsporidia MB might be encouraged to spread among mosquitoes. One approach would involve releasing Microsporidia MB spores in the hopes that many mosquitoes would end up infected. Another strategy is to intentionally infect male mosquitoes, who don't attack people. Instead, they would spread the microbe to females when they mated. Mosquitoes would (theoretically) not be killed in these processes.

Similar methods are used with a bacterium called Wolbachia to try to stop the mosquito-borne disease Dengue fever from spreading.

"The next phase of the research will investigate Microsporidia MB dynamics in large mosquito populations in screen house 'semi-field' facilities," Herren explained. "The results of these studies will give us key information that will be used to determine how we could then disseminate Microsporidia MB for malaria control."


Sources: University of Glasgow, Nature Communications

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUL 07, 2021
Technology
New Device Inactivates Bacteria That Cause Ear Infections
JUL 07, 2021
New Device Inactivates Bacteria That Cause Ear Infections
Researchers may have developed a device that could offer new therapeutic benefits to ear infection patients. According t ...
JUL 12, 2021
Cardiology
Myocarditis in Children is Usually Due to a Virus
JUL 12, 2021
Myocarditis in Children is Usually Due to a Virus
The heart is a muscle, and the wall of the heart has several layers. In a condition called myocarditis, the middle layer ...
JUL 13, 2021
Immunology
A Moment of COVID, A Lifetime of Immune Protection?
JUL 13, 2021
A Moment of COVID, A Lifetime of Immune Protection?
Does getting vaccinated, or having recovered from COVID, provide life-long protection against the coronavirus? Most like ...
JUL 17, 2021
Microbiology
Fungi Can be a Healthy or Destructive Part of the Gut Microbiome
JUL 17, 2021
Fungi Can be a Healthy or Destructive Part of the Gut Microbiome
Scientists have been revealing the importance of gut bacteria; the huge numbers of bacterial species in our gastrointest ...
JUL 22, 2021
Immunology
"Stunning" Anti-Inflammatory Effects of a Fermented Food Diet
JUL 22, 2021
"Stunning" Anti-Inflammatory Effects of a Fermented Food Diet
Researchers at Stanford University have found that consuming fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha te ...
SEP 14, 2021
Immunology
The Spleen Creates Long-Lasting Protection Against the Flu Virus
SEP 14, 2021
The Spleen Creates Long-Lasting Protection Against the Flu Virus
You share an elevator with an individual who is coughing and sneezing, only to find yourself feeling unwell a few days l ...
Loading Comments...