A group of scientists from Kenya and the United Kingdom has found a microbe that can wipe malaria off the face of the earth.
A person contracts malaria when bitten by an infected mosquito and this newly discovered microbe protects mosquitoes from the infections, thus showing an enormous potential to control the disease.
The microbe, Microsporidia MB, lives in the genitals and guts of mosquitoes found on the shores of Kenya’s Lake Victoria. While conducting a study, the scientists realised that no mosquito carrying the microbe got infected by the malaria parasite.
Following this, experiments were carried out and it confirmed that the Microsporidia did protect the insects from malaria.
It primed the mosquito’s immune system in a way that can fight off infections such as malaria. Moreover, Microsporidia MB infections last for life and only grow more portent with passing time, which means its malaria-blocking capacity would be lasting.
"The data we have so far suggest it is 100% blockage, it's a very severe blockage of malaria," Dr Jeremy Herren from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya told the BBC.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications on May 4, 2020.
Microsporidia MB is a parasitic fungus that exists naturally in barely five percent of the mosquito population that was studied.
Researchers are now looking at ways to release male infected mosquitoes into the wild who could sexually transmit the parasite to female insects or release Microsporidia spores in large numbers to infect the insects en masse.
More than 4,00,000 people die of malaria every year, children below five are the worst hit.
To help control the disease, a minimum of 40 percent of the mosquito population in a region needs to be infected with Microsporidia MB, following which the parasite can naturally be passed from the female insect to her offspring.