Bacteria found in mosquito guts could help scientists fight dengue, Zika

Catherine Offord,  Science,  2024.

A team in China probing the guts of local mosquitoes has found a potential helper in the fight against two human diseases. Researchers identified a new bacterium that disables the viruses responsible for dengue and Zika before they can establish an infection in the insects. Although early stage, the work, reported this week in Science, paves the way for studying the bacterium’s effect on disease transmission in the real world.

It wouldn’t be the first time a microbe is used to thwart mosquito-borne diseases. About 15 years ago, researchers discovered that a different bacterium, Wolbachia, reduces the insects’ ability to transmit dengue, among other viruses. Following successful field trials, Wolbachia is now used to help control dengue in more than a dozen countries. But an extra weapon to help control mosquito-borne diseases is welcome—especially as the insects become resistant to current insecticides. The new study is “promising,” says Nsa Dada, a vector biologist at Arizona State University who was not involved in the work. “It’s important that we explore … new tools that can complement existing control measures.”

Lacking proven treatments or widely available vaccines, dengue is the most common mosquito-borne viral disease worldwide, infecting some 400 million people each year. Although most cases are mild or asymptomatic, about one in 20 people who get sick develop severe dengue, which can be fatal.

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