File this under Really Cool Discoveries: New research, published May 13 in Science, shows that a specific group of naturally occurring bacteria, called Enterobacter, can stop the malaria parasite from taking up residence in mosquitoes' guts.
The finding, from Johns Hopkins University, could potentially be used to stop Anopheles mosquitoes from picking up the P. falciparum parasite that causes malaria, thus robbing the insects of their ability to transmit malaria to humans. The research team behind the study hopes its work will be applied to lower the number of malaria infections (now 225 million per year) and deaths (781,000 per year) worldwide.
From today's NIH press release on the study:
"This discovery may explain why some mosquitoes are better than others at transmitting malaria to humans, even when they are of the same species," explained NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
The Hopkins researchers found that in the presence of Enterobacter, various developmental stages of the P. falciparum parasite - including the stage that is transmitted to humans through a mosquito bite - were reduced by 98 to 99 percent.
"Our study used a laboratory method of P. falciparum infection, which causes stronger infections than those that take place in a natural environment," explained Dr. Dimopoulos. "We believe that in a natural situation, where infection levels are much lower, this bacterium would eliminate the parasite. Further, there is no evidence that Enterobacter is toxic to either mosquitoes or humans."
Photo by dr_relling