Bacteria could be used to control mosquitoes, prevent disease, study says

New findings, published in the journal Science, about the bacteria Wolbachia could be used to control mosquito populations and prevent malaria, dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases, Discovery News reports.

Scientists injected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry yellow and dengue fever, and Anopheles mosquitoes, which carry malaria, "with a special strain of fast-growing Wolbachia originally found in fruit flies." They found that 10 percent of A. aegypti mosquitoes survived, and only 5 percent of Anopheles mosquitoes survived. Discovery News writes that even after the original infected mosquito dies, "[a]ll the offspring from a Wolbachia-infected female mosquito are also Wolbachia-infected, since the parasite is passed from mother to daughter."

"'It will be particularly interesting to see if Wolbachia infections can interfere with mosquito transmission of the major human pathogens like Plasmodium' -- the causative agent of malaria -- 'and dengue viruses,'" according to Scott O'Neill of the University of Queensland (Bland, 10/1). Ary Hoffmann, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Melbourne, notes that before Wolbachia can be used to control diseases like malaria, "quite a few steps need to be covered first," the Scientist reports (Akst, 10/1). A second article appearing in the Scientist examines the Wolbachia bacteria and other biological efforts for malaria control (Dolgin, 10/09).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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