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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid