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
BS
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
MAY 15, 2022
Immunology
Long-Term Antibiotics Raise the Risk of Death From a Systemic Fungal Infection
MAY 15, 2022
Long-Term Antibiotics Raise the Risk of Death From a Systemic Fungal Infection
Infections are common, and many are becoming increasingly hard for clinicians to treat. Antibiotics are often used to tr ...
MAY 20, 2022
Microbiology
Why Staph Infections are Only Severe for Some
MAY 20, 2022
Why Staph Infections are Only Severe for Some
Bacteria live all around us, even in us. Though some bacterial pathogens can cause dangerous infections, many of those m ...
MAY 23, 2022
Coronavirus
The Genetics Underlying Susceptibility to Severe COVID-19
MAY 23, 2022
The Genetics Underlying Susceptibility to Severe COVID-19
Since the onset of the pandemic, researchers and clinicians have been trying to determine why COVID-19 is more severe in ...
MAY 28, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
A New Kind of DNA Editor in Miniature
MAY 28, 2022
A New Kind of DNA Editor in Miniature
Scientists changed biomedical engineering and took gene editing to a new level when they created CRISPR-Cas9, which util ...
JUN 08, 2022
Coronavirus
How are you Preparing for the Next Covid Surge?
JUN 08, 2022
How are you Preparing for the Next Covid Surge?
After two years of uncertainty, we can definitely say that the coronavirus (Covid-19) has changed our everyday lives as ...
JUL 29, 2022
Coronavirus
COVID-19 Emerged at Wuhan Wet Market, Other Scenarios Unlikely
JUL 29, 2022
COVID-19 Emerged at Wuhan Wet Market, Other Scenarios Unlikely
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers and scientists have searched for the origins of the virus. After i ...
Loading Comments...