Scientists have found a microbe that completely protects the mosquitoes from malaria infection. The team of researchers in Kenya and the UK believe the finding has “huge potential” to monitor the disease. Malaria is transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes, so protecting them first, could, in turn, protect people.
The researchers are now exploring whether infected mosquitoes can be released into the wild, or use spores to suppress the disease.
What is this microbe?
Microsporidia MB, the malaria-blocking bug, was discovered by examining mosquitoes on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya. This microbe lives inside the insect’s gut and genitals.
The researchers were not able to identify a single mosquito carrying the Microsporidia harboring the malaria parasite. And laboratory experiments, published in Nature Communications, verified that the microbe provides a defense to the mosquitoes.
Microsporidia is, or at least closely related to, fungi and most of them are parasites. This new species, however, can be detrimental to the mosquito and was found naturally in around 5 percent of the species studied.