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Fight Against Malaria Takes Odd New Turn
A new study has found a possible way to stop at least one species of mosquito from giving you malaria – by infecting them with a special strain of bacteria.
Researchers have found that infecting mosquitoes with the Wolbachia bacterium makes it nearly impossible for malaria to survive in the insects, thus keeping them from spreading it to humans, the BBC reports. The technique was tested on Anopheles stephensi, a species that ranges from the Middle East to Asia. An example is shown here in this Wikimedia Commons image. This remarkable photograph shows the insect sucking blood from a human. It's become so engorged it's actually ejecting extra blood from its rear end. Sorry if you were eating when you saw this but hey, it's in the name of science.
The bacteria passed from female mosquitoes to their offspring, opening up the possibility of infecting the entire species. Researchers followed 34 generations of infected mosquitoes and found the bacteria passed on through all of them. The results have been published in the journal Science. A study last year showed the same bacteria can be used to stop dengue fever.
The technique has not yet been tried on Anopheles gambiae, the main source of malaria in Africa.
This potential breakthrough in the fight against malaria is coming along at an important time, now that mosquitoes are developing a resistance to DEET.