A team of scientists in Kenya have discovered a novel method with significant potential to completely stop mosquitoes from transmitting the parasite which causes malaria in humans.
The scientists, most of whom are from Kenya, the UK, and one from South Africa are biologists at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi.
They discovered Microsporidia MB, a microorganism that lives in a mosquito’s reproductive tract and gut and completely protects the mosquito from being infected with plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria.
According to a report by Quartz Africa, the study showed the Microsporidia MB reduces the establishment of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite in the guts of the mosquitoes.
The researchers published their findings in the science journal, Nature Communications showing the microbe also impairs the colonization of the salivary glands by the parasite
The hope is that by infecting mosquitoes in a region with Microsporidia they will no longer be able to infect humans with malaria parasites.
“Step two is increasing the levels of the microbe in mosquitoes, which will be the hard part, but it is very encouraging to see how infectious this microbe is,” one of the researchers Jeremy Herren said
“Its ability to be spread from a mother mosquito to her offspring is an incredibly powerful feature,’ he added.
Herren said the scientists are studying other ways the microbe could spread through the mosquito population, such as releasing spores.
The team of scientists have been studying mosquitoes on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya.
This strategy has been demonstrated before in a city in Northern Australia where mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia, a bacterium, were deployed on a large scale.
That effectively stopped all outbreaks of dengue fever for more than four years.
In April 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that progress in the fight against malaria, which kills 400,000 people annually, has stalled.