Mosquitoes Praise Fermented Food

A new study in PLoS Pathogen has found that mosquitoes benefit from bacteria-laden food. The bacteria stimulate their immune system and protect them against the malaria parasite. From the abstract:

Malaria-transmitting mosquitoes are continuously exposed to microbes . . . Global transcription profiling of septic and [microbe-free] aseptic mosquitoes [made aseptic with antibiotics] identified a significant subset of immune genes that were mostly up-regulated by the mosquito’s microbial flora . . . Microbe-free aseptic mosquitoes displayed an increased susceptibility to Plasmodium infection while co-feeding mosquitoes with bacteria and P. falciparum gametocytes resulted in lower than normal infection levels. Infection analyses suggest the bacteria-mediated anti-Plasmodium effect is mediated by the mosquitoes’ antimicrobial immune responses, plausibly through activation of basal immunity.

Another view of this study is that it is more evidence of the dangers of antibiotics: They weakened the immune system. As you may know, and as I was told recently by a pediatrician, doctors “hand out antibiotics like candy.”

Thanks to Janet Rosenbaum.

5 Replies to “Mosquitoes Praise Fermented Food”

  1. do jars of fish, etc., in brine, oil, and vinegar count as fermented foods? Not brine, which inhibits bacteria, but basically any food at room temperature will accumulate more bacteria than the same food stored cold. I suspect however there are vast differences in the potency of fermented foods — some are far more beneficial than others. Although cooking kills bacteria, the dead bacteria may still be recognized as “strange” by the immune system and thus keep it awake.

  2. Huffnagle in The Probiotics Revolution says that the metabolic byproducts of probiotics provide a health benefit, even if the food has been heated enough to kill the bacteria. One study he mentioned used three groups; the first received cold yogurt with live bacteria, the second received that same bacteria which had previously been heated, and the third received unfermented milk. ‘Live bacteria produced the most benefits; unfermented milk gave the least. But the heated yogurt fell somewhere in between.’ He labels these byproducts ‘metabiotics’.

  3. Doctors hand out antibiotics like candy because patients relentlessly demand them. It can wear out even the most well-intentioned doctor. It’s especially severe in pediatrics, where every genius parent believes he or she can diagnose an ear infection better than the doctor.

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