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Malaria appears to be more prevalent in places with a common fungus

Fungus may be a key in the spread of malaria.

Scientists believe they understand why some areas have far more cases of malaria than others.

It has to do with fungus. A certain type compromises the immune system of mosquitoes, making them more susceptible to infection by the parasites that cause malaria, according to lab tests by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Once these compromised Anopheles mosquitoes bite person with the are infected with Plasmodium parasite and become infected, they go on to bite healthy people and infect them.

Worldwide last year there were 214 million malaria cases and 438,000 deaths, with about 90 percent of the cases and deaths are in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

There is no vaccine. Mosquito control measures include spraying insecticides and other bite prevention. Scientists also are working on genetically modifying mosquitoes to make them immune to malaria infection.

Researchers still want to see if fungus affects mosquitoes in the same way in nature so they better understand a factor influencing transmission, though they said the common, naturally occurring fungus isn’t likely to be a part of any malaria control measures.

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