A group of researchers in Kenya have discovered a microbe that is able to completely protect mosquitoes from becoming infected with malaria. This finding has “enormous potential” to minimize the impact of malaria, a disease that kills 400,000 people each year, most of them children under five.
The research team discovered the microbe while conducting a study of mosquitoes on the shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya. It is known as Microsporidia MB, and it lives in the intestine and genitalia of insects.
Not a single one of the mosquitoes that had this microbe in their bodies was infected with the malaria parasite. This led to several experiments that confirmed the suspicions: the microbe protects the mosquitoes from that infection.
Although most microsporidia are parasites, this new species is found in approximately 5% of the insects studied and is apparently beneficial to them. Scientists indicate that the blockage is total, and that this could pose a way to prevent the spread of this disease.
It is not yet entirely clear how it acts on the mosquito to stop the infection, but it seems that by inhabiting those parts of the mosquito, this microbe makes that insect “uninhabitable” for the malaria parasite for the entire life of that mosquito.
The idea now is to infect at least 40% of the mosquitoes in each region with the MB microsporidia in order to stop malaria. The germ can be transmitted between adult mosquitoes and also from the female mosquito to her offspring.
It remains to be seen if the method is put into practice, but it is certainly one of the most relevant advances in stopping a terrible disease especially on the African continent, where according to the WHO 93% of the cases occurred in 2018.