Infection may actually help protect insects

November 3rd, 2008 - 11:16 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Nov 3 (IANS) Researchers have discovered that certain type of bacteria, Wolbachia, can actually protect flies from mortality caused by pathogenic viruses. Insect virologist Karyn Johnson and her colleagues from University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Integrative Biology found such an interaction for the first time.

She said the team used Wolbachia infected vinegar flies (Drosophila melanogaster) and injected them with a virus that is fatal to the insects.

“Usually we would expect a bacterial infection may compromise the fly making it more susceptible to other pathogens, but what we found was Wolbachia protected the insects,” she said.

“This interaction is particularly interesting as Wolbachia is very common in insects. If this type of interaction is widespread there could be significant implications for the way viruses are maintained in insect populations,” Johnson said, according to a UQ release. The study was published in Science.

“The potential impact of this research on the transmission of insect borne disease is exciting.”

Johnson said the next stage of the research would be to find the mechanism of how the bacteria protects the flies from the virus.

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