FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

Swedish study uncovers new malaria-fighting bacteria

A new family of bacteria that are common in malaria-carrying mosquitoes may now be able to fight malaria.

Scientists and researchers at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Uppsala University in Sweden, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen in Germany, and the Veterinärmedizinische Universität in Austria recently discovered the connection, 

Their findings were published in a recent edition of International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

Finding new bacteria in this part of the bacterial family tree is unusual. It has happened just once before in the last 50 years.

“When we discovered the first species of Thorsellia in a Kenyan malaria mosquito and decided to name the unique bacterium after (mosquito researcher Walborg) Thorsell, we did not know that it would prove to be so common in mosquitoes,” SLU Department of Ecology Researcher Olle Terenius said. “In retrospect, we can conclude that the name was well chosen."

The first Thorsellia species were isolated from malaria mosquitoes in Kenya, but species of the Thorsellia have since been found in malaria mosquitoes from Africa, India, Iran, Brazil and even in the United States.

“It is exciting that these bacteria so far are only found in disease-carrying mosquitoes and their hatching waters,” Terenius said. “We and other research groups are now trying to understand the interaction between Thorsellia and mosquitoes. Among other things, Thorsellia have properties facilitating mosquito-larvae uptake and survival.”

Future research will focus on paratransgenesis, looking at ways to stop the transmission of malaria parasites of bacteria residing in the gut of the infected mosquito.

“We are looking for bacteria that live in the mosquito gut and which grow quickly when the mosquito has taken a blood meal,” SLU Department of Microbiology Researcher Sebastian Hakansson said. “The idea is to genetically modify these bacteria to produce substances that stop malaria parasite development. Through the use of bacteria that are closely linked to malaria mosquitoes, we reduce the risk that the altered bacteria end up in the wrong place in nature.”

Organizations in this story

SLU, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences 4 Arrheniusplan Uppsala, Sweden 75651

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