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article imageBacterial infection could help to fight malaria

By Tim Sandle     Jun 11, 2014 in Science
Perugia - A bacterial infection in two species of Anopheles mosquitoes (called Wolbachia) appears to reduce the incidence of pathogen infections in mosquitoes and has the potential to be used in controlling malaria-transmitting mosquito populations.
The infective bacterium is called Wolbachia (and a particular strain called wAnga is the one that has been studied). Scientists have demonstrated how the bacterium can spread rapidly through wild insect populations by inducing a reproductive phenomenon called ‘cytoplasm incompatibility’. This stops the parasite that causes malaria (Plasmodium) from growing inside the mosquito, and thus the infectivity of the parasite is reduced in a population of mosquitoes.
When passed into the blood of human, from the bite of a mosquito, the parasites travel to the liver to mature and reproduce. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever and headache, which in severe cases can progress to coma or death.
Whether Wolbachia can be successfully introduced into mosquito populations to reduce incidents of malaria is uncertain. However, if successful, exploiting Wolbachia infections in malaria mosquitoes could reduce the burden of the disease globally.
The research was undertaken at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and at the University of Perugia, Italy. The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications, in a paper headed “Evidence of natural Wolbachia infections in field populations of Anopheles gambiae.”
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