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Bacteria play role in preventing spread of malaria
Date:5/8/2009

Bacteria in the gut of the Anopheles gambiae mosquito inhibit infection of the insect with Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria in humans, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Scientists with the Bloomberg School's Malaria Research Institute found that removing these bacteria, or microbial flora, with antibiotics made the mosquitoes more susceptible to Plasmodium infection because of a lack of immune stimulation. Their study is published in the May 8, 2009, edition of the journal PLoS Pathogens.

As part of the malaria transmission cycle, a mosquito acquires the malaria-causing parasite when it feeds on blood from an infected person. The parasite develops within the mosquito and can then be transmitted to another human when the mosquito feeds again.

"Our study suggests that the microbial flora of mosquitoes is stimulating immune activity that protects the mosquito from Plasmodium infection. The same immune factors that are needed to control the mosquito's infection from the microbes are also defending against the malaria parasite Plasmodium," said George Dimopoulos, PhD, senior author of the study and associate professor with Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute. "The interplay between bacteria and the mosquito's immune system may have significant implications for the transmission of malaria in the field where mosquitoes may be exposed to different types of bacteria in different regions. Theoretically, these bacteria could be introduced to the mosquitoes to boost their immunity to the malaria parasite and make them resistant and incapable of spreading the disease. Our current research aims at identifying those bacteria that trigger the strongest mosquito immune defense against the malaria parasite."

As part of the study, the Johns Hopkins researcher treated mosquitoes with antibiotics to kill the gut bacteria. Treated mosquitoes
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Contact: Tim Parsons
tmparson@jhsph.edu
410-955-7619
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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