Mosquitoes that harbor a soil microbe called Chromobacterium Csp_P have a harder time catching dengue virus and the malarial parasite. Christopher Intagliata reports
The human microbiome is the community of tiny organisms that live on us and inside us. These critters play vital roles in our health. They calibrate our immune systems, ward off pathogenic bacteria, even affect our weight. But if we stop the navel gazing—literally, because some scientists are actually measuring belly button bacteria—there's a whole lot to be found in the microbiomes of other organisms, too.
Take the pesky mosquito. A few years back, scientists found a soil microbe called Chromobacterium Csp_P living in the guts of mosquitoes in Panama. Upon further study, the researchers say this mosquito-occupant could be a remarkably versatile weapon to fight malaria and dengue fever. Because Chromobacterium shortens the lifespan of disease-transmitting mosquito species that harbor it; and kills their larvae outright. It also reduces mosquitoes' ability to catch the dengue virus, or the malarial parasite; and it kills both pathogens in the lab. Those findings are in the journal PLoS Pathogens. [Jose Luis Ramirez et al.: Chromobacterium Csp_P Reduces Malaria and Dengue Infection in Vector Mosquitoes and Has Entomopathogenic and In Vitro Anti-pathogen Activities]
The researchers say this Chromobacterium strain could someday guide the development of new drugs. Or serve as a more environmentally-friendly stand-in for pesticides. But they also say that, as with many disease-control strategies, there's no one silver bullet. Drugs, vaccines, and education will still be crucial to keeping mosquito-borne killers in check. Along with good old vector control: in this case, fighting bugs with bugs.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]