A microbe to fight malaria

The Covid-19 pandemic is top of the mind for everybody and it is easy to forget that the medical community is also continuing research in other areas. Malaria, for example, kills 400,000 people annually and efforts to tackle this problem have not borne fruit so far.

However BBC reports that a microbe that can block malaria, Microsporidia MB, has recently been discovered by studying mosquitoes on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya. The microbe lives in the gut and genitals of the insects. The discovery may open a new direction in the fight against Malaria.

The researchers could not find a single mosquito carrying the Microsporidia that was harbouring the malaria parasite. And lab experiments, published in Nature Communications, confirmed the microbe gave the mosquitoes protection.

Further research is needed but the plan, going forward, appears simple enough- find a way to infect as many of the mosquitoes as possible with this microbe. Two methods are being considered. The first one involves releasing Microsporidia form spores en masse to infect mosquitoes.

Alternatively, it should be possible to infect male mosquitoes in the lab and release them into the wild so that they, in turn, can infect female mosquitoes. It sounds like all we need is to give these suckers an epidemic of their own.

Bonus point: infecting mosquitoes with this microbe will not kill them. They will live, so that they can be eaten by organisms which depend on them in the environment. They just won’t be able to harbour and transmit the pathogen that causes malaria.

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