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Malaria-blocking Microbe Discovered

Jun 10, 2020 by Iris Dawn Tabangcora

While significant progress has been made to curb malaria, it remains a major cause of mortality with more than 400,000 people killed annually. Most of these are children under the age of five. Experts agree that while bed nets and insecticides are effective preventive measures, new tools are needed to control this infectious disease.

Microbe protects mosquitoes against malaria

On the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya, researchers discovered a malaria-blocking bug, Microsporidia MB, while studying mosquitoes. These bugs are considered fungi and live naturally in the gut and genitals of the insects. No mosquitoes with these bugs were found to be harboring the malaria parasite. With the help of researchers from the UK, lab experiments confirmed that these microbes gave 100% protection. It's a huge breakthrough as malaria is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Protecting these mosquitoes could in turn protect people.

It is still not fully understood how these bugs provide protection. However, researchers had some possible explanations. According to the study, the microbes could be enhancing the mosquito's immune system. Another explanation is that they alter the metabolism so parasites could not survive. They are performing more tests to understand this process.

Researchers are investigating whether they can release infected mosquitoes into the wild. At least 40% of mosquitoes need to be infected with the microbe to significantly curb malaria. The microbes can also be passed from adult female mosquitos to their offspring. Strategies to increase the number of infected mosquitos include releasing spores in the wild to infect mosquitoes, and to infect male mosquitoes in the lab and then release them into the wild where they will infect the females during copulation.

This discovery of this long-lasting, malaria-blocking effect has enormous potential as a means for malaria control. Studies are being conducted to understand further how the microbe spreads.
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