Mosquitoes are the primary means of transmitting malaria, but a new discovery in mosquitoes gives hope in the fight against the disease. Scientists have recently found that the presence of a microbe in mosquitoes prevents them from harboring malaria. They hope to be able to spread this microbe among the mosquito populations in the areas where the disease is prevalent to start preventing people from falling victim to it. With an average of 400,000 people a year dying from malaria and related complications (mostly children under the age of 5), protective measures like bed nets and spraying insecticides are no longer reducing the number of people who contract the disease. The microbes block the disease, preventing transmission to humans as well.
These microbes reside in an insect’s guts and genitals. Of the mosquitoes that were found to have the microbe, none were carrying malaria, suggesting that the microbe blocks the disease from spreading. The microbes are fungal or closely related to the fungal classification. Research has found that only about 5% of mosquitoes carry the microbe.
Only female mosquitoes suck human blood, thereby transmitting the disease. Scientists are looking at two ways of passing the microbe along to other mosquitoes to prevent further transmission of malaria.
- They are looking into passing the microbe on through releasing spores among a wide population of mosquitos.
- They are also researching the release of a large population of infected males that will then pass it on to females through procreation.
The first time such an approach was taken was with Wolbachia, a bacterium that was carried by mosquitoes and helps fight Dengue fever. While reducing cases of malaria, this approach would not harm the insect population, on which many of the birds and other animals rely as a food source.
For more details on this exciting find, check out Malaria ‘Completely Stopped’ by Microbe