Infection in malaria-transmitting mosquito discovered

Jun 06, 2014
Credit: CDC

Researchers have found the first evidence of an intercellular bacterial infection in natural populations of two species of Anopheles mosquitoes, the major vectors of malaria in Africa. The infection, called Wolbachia, has been shown in labs to reduce the incidence of pathogen infections in mosquitoes and has the potential to be used in controlling malaria-transmitting mosquito populations.

"Wolbachia is an interesting bacterium that seems perfectly suited for mosquito control. However, there were strong doubts that it could ever be used against field Anopheles populations," said Flaminia Catteruccia, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and at the University of Perugia, Italy. "We were thrilled when we identified infections in natural mosquito populations, as we knew this finding could generate novel opportunities for stopping the spread of malaria."

The study appears online June 6, 2014 in Nature Communications. Anopheles mosquitoes are the deadliest animal on the planet. They are responsible for transmitting malaria, which causes more than 600,000 deaths each year and puts half of the world's at risk for diseases. Wolbachia infections spread rapidly through wild insect populations by inducing a reproductive phenomenon called cytoplasm incompatibility (CI), and 66% of arthropod species are infected. However, it was commonly thought that Anopheles mosquitoes were not natural hosts for Wolbachia infections, and attempts to identify infections in these mosquitoes in the field had failed.

Co-author Francesco Baldini, from University of Perugia, Italy and HSPH, in collaboration with researchers from CNRS, France, collected Anopheles mosquitoes from villages in Burkina Faso, West Africa, and analyzed their reproductive tracts. Their objective was to identify all the bacteria in the reproductive systems of both male and female mosquitoes; they were not looking directly for Wolbachia. To their surprise, they found a novel strain of the , which they named wAnga.

The researchers say they can now investigate whether the wAnga strain shares properties with other Wolbachia strains, which could make control strategies possible by inducing CI and reducing Plasmodium (the parasite that causes malaria) numbers in Anopheles mosquitoes in the field. "If successful, exploiting Wolbachia infections in mosquitoes could reduce the burden of the disease globally," said co-author Elena Levashina, from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin.

Explore further: Study provides new insights into the genetics of drug-resistant fungal infections

More information: "Evidence of natural Wolbachia infections in field populations of Anopheles gambiae," Francesco Baldini, Nicola Segata, Julien Pompon, Perrine Marcenac, W. Robert Shaw, Roch K. Dabiré, Abdoulaye Diabaté, Elena A. Levashina, Flaminia Catteruccia, Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4985 , online June 6, 2014.

Related Stories

New molecular target for malaria control identified

Oct 29, 2013

A new study led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and University of Perugia (UNIPG) researchers has shown that egg development in the mosquito species primarily responsible for spreading malaria depends ...

Scientists engineer mosquito immune system to fight malaria

Dec 22, 2011

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute have demonstrated that the Anopheles mosquito's innate immune system could be genetically engineered to block the transmission of malaria-causing parasites to humans. ...

Recommended for you

Waiting to harvest after a rain enhances food safety

15 hours ago

To protect consumers from foodborne illness, produce farmers should wait 24 hours after a rain or irrigating their fields to harvest crops, according to new research published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

A triangular protein pump

20 hours ago

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have elucidated the structure of a molecular machine with an atypical triangular shape that is involved in peroxisome biogenesis, and characterized its conformation ...

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

Jul 03, 2015

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.