Times reports unusual bed bug immune organ brings “hope of malaria cure” for humans

by nobugsonme on September 23, 2008 · 1 comment

in bed bugs

Well, I’ll be.

Bed bugs may actually contribute something positive to science.

(And then I hope they all drop dead!)

Seriously. The Times of London reports,

A unique organ that could help in the battle against malaria has been discovered on female bedbugs who suffer serious problems from the amorous attentions of the opposite sex.

The organ offers the females a degree of immunity from infections introduced by violent males.

Immune organs are found nowhere else in the animal kingdom and their discovery should eventually help scientists to develop new techniques to prevent mosquitoes passing malaria and other fatal diseases to people.

Professor Mike Siva-Jothy, of the University of Sheffield, was behind the discovery of the organ, which he said formed a reservoir of white blood cells acting as a first line of defence against sexually transmitted infections.

You can read the rest of the article for details on the violent and disturbing sex lives of bed bugs. We’ve heard it all before.

1 glitch September 23, 2008 at 2:29 pm

“Hope of malaria cure” is so far removed from this admittedly interesting discovery that The Times should be ashamed of such forced sensationalism. For a start what the article talks about is prevention, not a cure for malaria. The only thing the research could lead to is enabling a manipulated mosquito to immunely kill off malaria sporozoites after ingestion, presumably in the mosquito’s salivary glands where they take up residence, before they could be transmitted to humans during further biting.

The only trouble with even engineering such prevention is that it would be necessary first to manipulate some malaria mosquitoes (Anopheles) to have such an immune system (rocket science at best at the present time). Vaccinating mosquitoes? And then the little matter of breeding and replacing all malaria-carrying mosquitoes worldwide with them. If we could replace whole populations of mosquitoes in the wild like that, we would have eradicated malaria long ago!

Malaria is caused by a single-celled microscopic animal, Plasmodium, with an incredibly complex life cycle. A small part of this life cycle takes place in the mosquito. Bedbug females are, after their rape, threatened mainly by bacteria and fungi, very simple organisms by comparison with Plasmodium. Of course any information the research can provide is interesting, but it has all been hyped and connected just a little too much here.

Further, the article promotes the myth that “bedbugs live in insanitary spaces”, “often crawling through faeces” which to the uninitiated reader suggests that human faeces are meant. Related articles also go on about them being “confined to insanitary spaces”. Considering the other factual details which are reasonably accurate, I suspect a bee-bonneted editor lurking in the background insisting on inserting rubbish into these articles. The research is interesting but The Times journalists should be more competent and informed.

Awesome mugshots of our foe though. The photographers are the real heroes of this article.

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