News Staff December 20, 2018

The discovery of novel Wolbachia bacteria strains in Anopheles malaria vectors could lead to the reduction in the transmission of malaria, according to a study published in Wellcome Open Research, Wellcome’s open research publishing platform.

Wolbachia, a common insect bacterium that can influence pathogen transmission and manipulate host reproduction, has historically been considered absent from the Anopheles (An.) genera, but has recently been found in An. gambiae s.l. populations in West Africa.

Since there are numerous Anopheles species that have the capacity to transmit malaria, the study analysed a range of species across five malaria endemic countries to determine Wolbachia prevalence rates, characterise novel Wolbachia strains and determine any correlation between the presence of PlasmodiumWolbachia and the competing bacterium Asaia.

The research, funded by Wellcome and Royal Society, found novel Wolbachia strains in five species, increasing the number of Anopheles species known to be naturally infected. Variable prevalence rates in different locations were observed and novel strains were phylogenetically diverse, clustering with Wolbachia supergroup B strains.

Principle investigator and lead author of the study Thomas Walker of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said of the findings:

“This important discovery provides greater insight into the prevalence of resident Wolbachia strains in diverse malaria vectors. Novel Wolbachia strains (particularly high-density strains) are ideal candidate strains for transinfection to create stable infections in other Anopheles mosquito species, which could be used for population replacement or suppression control strategies.”