Scientists have discovered a bacteria that causes mosquitoes to die by killing them.
The discovery of the microbe was made in the lab of a UK-based company and was published in the journal Science Advances.
The microbe, called Bacillus subtilis, has not yet been described in detail but researchers believe it may have a role in mosquito vector control.
Scientists from the University of Cambridge and the University College London, along with a UK company called Agro-Gen, were working on the microbicide when they discovered it.
The research was published on a website where scientists are publishing their research.
“It’s a very exciting discovery,” said Professor Michael Wainwright from the UCL Centre for Microbial Ecology.
“The results are not all that surprising, we’ve known that there are these super-microbes that cause this disease for quite some time now, and this is the first time that we’ve identified them as a causative agent.”
The microbicidal bacteria is able to kill off mosquitoes in just a few hours.
This means it can be used in a very short timeframe and the discovery may help to improve mosquito control in areas where there are large numbers of mosquitoes.
The bacterium was discovered by the researchers as part of a new field study called the Insect Microbial Genome Consortium.
They had previously been studying the genes of mosquito larvae that they were studying to understand how they changed over time.
“We were looking for the most virulent and potentially the most dangerous mosquitoes, so we could see what the population dynamics were of those mosquitoes,” said Prof Wainwr.
“But we didn’t find them.
We did find some very interesting genes, and it was pretty exciting.”
The scientists used an enzyme called an oligonucleotide to look for these genes.
“That enzyme is really very important in a lot of things,” Prof Wainswright said.
“This enzyme is involved in many things that are related to mosquito control, and in fact the bacterium has a lot to do with that, so it was exciting to see it as a key enzyme in this new field.”
The team also used a technique called reverse transcriptase analysis to look at the proteins that were produced by the bacteria, which they found were more similar to the proteins produced by normal bacteria than the viruses.
The bacteria produce a protein called AIP1, which is involved with protein synthesis and stabilisation of the cell.
The proteins are similar to those that are produced by viruses, and when the researchers removed the bacteria from the mosquitoes, they found that they produced a very similar protein to those produced by a virus.
This suggests that the bacteria is acting as a virulence factor in the mosquitoes.
“AIP1 plays a key role in the pathogenesis of a range of diseases, including malaria, the coronavirus, Zika and other diseases that we know about,” said Dr Srinivasa Rajaratnam, the principal investigator of the project.
“There is good evidence that AIP-1 is a crucial factor in controlling mosquitoes in the wild, and our results show that this bacterium could be a novel agent to control mosquitoes in our lab.”
The researchers believe that the bacteria has some protection against viruses and that its production of AIPs could help to reduce the burden of malaria in Africa and Asia.
The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the National Institutes of Health.
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