Newly Discovered Bacterial Family May Become Weapon in Fight Against Malaria

A new family of bacteria that are common in malaria mosquitoes has been described by researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Uppsala University in Sweden, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Germany, and the Veterinärmedizinische Universität, Austria. Now, attempts are being made to use these bacteria in the fight against malaria. A brand new bacterial family, which so far is only found along with disease-carrying mosquitoes, is described in the February 2015 issue of International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. To describe a new family in this part of the bacterial family tree is unusual; it has only happened once before in the last 50 years. The bacterial family Thorselliaceae, as well as the genus Thorsellia, is named after the now 96-year-old Professor Walborg Thorsell, a legendary mosquito researcher who began her research in the 1970s and then, for several decades, developed mosquito repellents at the Swedish Defense Research Establishment to be used by Swedish soldiers in wartime. “When we discovered the first species of Thorsellia in a Kenyan malaria mosquito and decided to name the unique bacterium after Thorsell, we did not know that it would prove to be so common in mosquitoes, says Dr. Olle Terenius, researcher in the Department of Ecology, SLU. “In retrospect, we can conclude that the name was well chosen.” The discovery of the new bacterial family is strongly linked to research on malaria mosquitoes and the development of tools to combat this disease.
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