SCIENTISTS have found natural bacteria in mosquitoes could be the key to fighting malaria.
Spanish researchers accidentally discovered the strain, called TC1, that is found in the bugs’ stomachs can stop them passing on the deadly disease.
The discovery came because they found they could not get the mosquitoes to carry a common and particularly dangerous form of malaria.
Modelling suggests using TC1 could help reduce cases of malaria by 15 per cent over the next three years.
Thomas Breuer, of GSK, said "we may be able to finally eradicate this terrible disease" through the bacteria.
He said: "TC1, as an entirely novel approach for malaria control, has potential to further reduce the huge burden of malaria in endemic countries."
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Dr Abdoulaye Diabate, of Burkina Faso’s Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Sante, who is working on the trials, added that the bacteria could help “save the lives of millions of children”.
He said: “Discoveries such as TC1 bacterium hold huge potential for Africa.
"We hope to provide a viable solution that can be readily adopted in field settings to control and prevent malaria transmission, which could have a profound impact on public health.”
Nearly half the world’s population was at risk of malaria in 2021, according to the World Health Organization.
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Around 247million cases were recorded that year, with around 619,000 thought to have died.
Symptoms include tiredness, difficulty breathing, yellowing skin and abnormal bleeding, and children, pregnant women and people with HIV are most at risk of severe illness.
The disease is most prevalent in African countries, with nearly a third of all deaths in 2021 occurring in Nigeria.
However, experts are becoming increasingly concerned that rising temperatures globally could see more disease-carrying mosquitoes thrive in previously unexposed areas like China, South America and sub-Saharan Africa.
TC1 was found to be effective at reducing malaria transmission in the two most common types of mosquito found in Africa and the Indo-Iranian region.
Professor Tom Churcher, of Imperial College London, who worked on the modelling, likened the discovery to Alexander Flemming’s chance finding of penicillin.
He told The Times: “He just left his window open, something floated in and then contaminated his equipment. That analogy is quite similar to this.
“They couldn’t get the mosquitoes to be infected, then they did the nice science behind it and actually found out what the case was and that’s where we are. So it was quite fortuitous.”
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