A bacterium that infects insects may provide a biological method for stunting the spread of a range of devastating human diseases. The bacteria may protect their hosts against disease-causing pathogens by hiking up the insects' immune response, according to a study published online today (October 1) in Science.
"I think the paper is quite exciting," linkurl:Scott O'Neill;http://profiles.bacs.uq.edu.au/Scott.O%27Neill.html of the University of Queensland in Australia wrote in an email to The Scientist. "The work is very interesting in the context of future disease control." The wMelPop, or "popcorn," strain of Wolbachia occurs naturally in Drosophila melanogaster and is known to significantly reduce longevity of the fly. Earlier this year, the bacterium was found to have a similar effect on the mosquito Aedes aegypti: When artificially infected with the strain, the mosquito's lifespan was cut in half. But until now, the...
US Department of Agriculture
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