Scientists discover new malaria control strategy

Scientists funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have made an inheritable bacterial infection in malaria carrying mosquitos that makes them immune to malaria parasites.

Malaria is a disease responsible for thousands of illness around the world. The disease is spread by mosquitos who pass the parasite onto humans when they draw blood.

The scientists injected the mosquitos capable of carrying the malaria bacteria with Wolbachia, a bacteria common in insects that have shown to be able to prevent the malaria-inducing Plasmodium parasites.

The study was led by Zhiyong Xi of Michigan State University. In the study, the researchers focused on Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes, which are the primary carriers of malaria in the Middle East and South Asia. They injected Wolbachia into female and male embryos. Once the larva hatched, the mosquitos were uninfected with malaria and this continued for 34 generations.

Future studies could explore the possibilities that these mosquitos could become resistant to the Wolbachia bacterium. They also will look at ways to infect mosquitos with Wolbachia and integrate this process with other malaria control strategies.

Each year, nearly 800,000 people die from malaria. Some of the problem lies in poor detection methods, but much of the problem lies in the mosquitos easy ability to transfer the parasite from their body into the host.