A bacterium that infects insects may provide a biological method for stunting the spread of a range of devastating human diseases. The bacteria may protect their hosts against disease-causing pathogens by hiking up the insects' immune response, according to a study published online today (October 1) in Science.
Basically, mosquitoes were fed a certain bacteria, called "popcorn" Wolbachia, that did two things, 1.) boosted the immune system of the mosquitoes, which made them less likely carriers of diseases such as filarial nematodes (cause lymphatic filariasis), and 2.) cut the average lifespan of the mosquitoes in half.
Researchers are looking at the future possibilities of this promising treatment -- a natural way to curb the dangerous infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes. Questions remain whether the "popcorn" bacteria could also interfere with the mosquitoes' ability to carry more dangerous diseases, such as malaria or the Dengue virus.