News / Health

    Microbe Could Help Battle Malaria

    Could be used to destroy disease-causing parasite

    A model of an Anopheles mosquito in the new Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum in London, (File)
    A model of an Anopheles mosquito in the new Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum in London, (File)

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Jessica Berman

    Researchers have discovered a bacterium in the gut of the Anopheles mosquito which may someday be used to destroy and, therefore, prevent the spread of the disease-causing parasite.

    The World Health Organization estimates 800,000 people die of malaria each year. The parasite that causes the disease is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. After the mosquito feeds on the blood of an infected individual, the parasite matures into an infectious stage in the insect’s gut.  From there, the parasite, known as Plasmodium falciparum, takes up residence in the mosquito’s salivary glands so it can infect the next person that’s bitten.

    Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland found the bacterium in the gut of the Anopheles mosquito among hundreds of so-called microbial flora that live harmlessly in the stomach of a group of Anopheles mosquitoes collected in an area of southern Zambia where malaria is rampant.

    The microbe, which was in the guts of a small percentage of the mosquitoes, protected those insects against infection with the parasite.

    Lead researcher George Dimopoulos says the protection seems to be a side-effect of the bacterium’s normal bodily function, adding that scientists would like to figure out a way to use the microbe as a weapon against malaria.

    “Our study has shown that this bacterium produces free radicals, molecules that contain oxygen and that can cause damage to cells.  So, we believe that’s how this bacterium is killing the malaria parasite in the mosquito gut.  But we need to understand that mechanism in greater detail.”

    To demonstrate the beneficial effect, the researchers used antibiotics to kill the bacterium in mosquitoes that contained it, and were then able to infect those mosquitoes more easily with the Plasmodium parasite.

    They also introduced the bacterium into the guts of mosquitoes that didn’t have it. When they fed this group infected blood, the parasite was destroyed in nearly all of the insects.

    Dimopoulos says researchers’ goal now is to figure out a way to introduce the microbe into large populations of Anopheles mosquitoes - perhaps through bait laced with their favorite snack.

    “Mosquitoes need to feed on sugar every day.  And one can potentially expose mosquitoes in the field to these bacteria through sugar bait.”

    The researchers noted that mosquitoes with the bacterium in their guts die sooner than those without it - when both groups are infected with the parasite. Since the malaria parasite lives in mosquitoes for about two weeks before maturing to an infectious stage, Dimopoulos says it’s good news that the stomach bacterium seems to shorten the insect’s lifespan, before it could potentially transmit the parasite to humans.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.