Malaria completely stopped by microbeDate: 05 May 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous
Scientists have discovered a microbe that completely protects mosquitoes from being infected with malaria.
Malaria is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes, so protecting them could in turn protect people. The team in Kenya and the UK say the finding has "enormous potential" to control the disease.
The malaria-blocking bug, Microsporidia MB, was discovered by studying mosquitoes on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya. It lives in the gut and genitals of the insects.
The researchers could not find a single mosquito carrying the Microsporidia that was harbouring the malaria parasite. And lab experiments confirmed the microbe gave the mosquitoes protection.
Microsporidias are fungi, or at least closely related to them, and most are parasites. However, this new species may be beneficial to the mosquito and was naturally found in around 5% of the insects studied.
Microsporidia MB could be priming the mosquito's immune system, so it is more able to fight off infections. The presence of the microbe in the insect could be having a profound effect on the mosquito's metabolism, making it inhospitable for the malaria parasite.
Microsporidia MB infections appear to be life-long. If anything, the experiments show they become more intense, so the malaria-blocking effect would be long-lasting.
At the very least, 40% of mosquitoes in a region need to be infected with Microsporidia in order to make a significant dent in malaria. The microbe can be passed between adult mosquitoes and is also passed from the female to her offspring.
While huge progress has been made through the use of bed nets and spraying homes with insecticide, this has stalled in recent years. It is widely agreed new tools are needed to tackle malaria.