Bacteria that stops malaria found

Researchers have identified a bacterium that stops the development of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria in humans.

Scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health identified the Enterobacter bacterium in mosquitoes while conducting field research. The bacterium is part of the naturally occurring microbial flora inside the mosquito, according to

The Enterobacter bacterium kills the parasite through its production of reactive oxygen species, or free radical molecules, according to a study published in the May 13 edition of Science.

"We've previously shown that the mosquito's midgut bacteria can activate its immune system and thereby indirectly limit the development of the malaria parasite,” Dr. George Dimopoulos, the senior author of the study, said, according to “In this study we show that certain bacteria can directly block the malaria parasite's development through the production of free radicals that are detrimental to Plasmodium in the mosquito gut."

Dimopoulos is an associate professor at the W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute.

The Anopheles mosquitoes utilized in the research were collected near the Johns Hopkins Malaria Institute at Macha, located in southern Zambia. The researchers were able to isolate the specific strain of Enterobacter bacterium in approximately 25 percent of the mosquitoes they found there.

The study demonstrated that the bacteria was able to inhibit the growth of Plasmodium up to 99 percent, both in the mosquitoes’ gut and in a test tube culture containing the human malaria parasite, reports. Higher doses of the bacteria had a greater impact on Plasmodium growth.

"We are particularly excited about this discovery because it may explain why mosquitoes of the same species and strain sometimes differ in their resistance to the parasite, and we may also use this knowledge to develop novel methods to stop the spread of malaria,” Dimopoulos said, reports.