Antibiotic-Infused Blood Turns Mosquitos Into Superpowered Malaria-Transmitting Nightmares
They're like Captain America, but terrible.
Okay, this sounds very terrible, but let’s put thing in perspective. Sure, mosquitos who ingest blood infused with antibiotics are more likely to live longer, successfully reproduce, and both pick up and pass on the malaria virus at faster rates. But at least it doesn’t turn them into SyFy-movie mansquitos? Silver linings, folks.
Researchers at Imperial College London discovered this link between antibiotics and malaria susceptibility during a series of experiments in which they fed mosquitos blood samples from malaria-infected children, half of which were also combined with a penicillin-streptomycin cocktail. Their findings, which were recently published in Nature, suggest that introducing mosquitos to antibiotics significantly increases their chances of contracting and then passing on malaria. They also theorize that this is due to the antibiotics killing off the naturally occurring gut bacteria of the mosquito, allowing malaria parasites to more easily take root.
While it’s very rare that antibiotics would ever be used to treat the Malaria parasite itself (save for such as Doxycycline, which is sometimes taken to inhibit transmission of the disease) antibiotics are very commonly used to treat bacterial infections and other illnesses—especially tuberculosis and HIV, which are also common in malaria-endemic areas of the world. So a person on antibiotics could very easily come into contact with a mosquito population and inadvertently wreak all kinds of maria-causing havoc.
Researchers will continue to experiment with the different effects that drugs have on both malaria and the mosquitos that transfer it from person to person. As of now, however, the only surefire way to lower the rates of malaria is to strictly control the mosquito population. Here’s to hoping we haven’t accidentally been breeding antibiotic-laced superbugs, because that sounds like the worst comic book origin story ever.