A large portion of the research being published on the human microbiome can be generalized into two categories: scientists study lab mice in order to extrapolate conclusions about the human microbiome, or else scientists take direct samples from humans. Though this is obviously an oversimplification, it is worth noting because such a perception can lead to a very narrow concep of microbiome research and its possible implications. A new study published in the British interdisciplinary scientific journal Nature should help challenge those stereotypes.
The study examined a very specific aspect of the mosquito microbiome: namely, C-type lectins (CTLs.) CTLs are a diverse family of proteins that bind onto different types of carbohydrates on the outside of cells. Many lectins are involved in immunity and scientists believe that lectins might be important in determining the bacterial makeup of the mosquito gut.
In mammals, it has been documented that CTLs help target and destroy many forms of bacteria. That is why the results of this study were a bit surprising: researchers discovered that, in the mosquitos being studied, the CTLs were actually helping defend certain bacteria from antimicrobial peptides, which are used to destroy harmful bacteria. It appears that CTLs may be a bit more “intelligent” than once thought: perhaps they help select the best microbial makeup possible in order to build a healthy microbiome.
There are two possible implications for this work. There is, of course, a “conventional” purpose for this researcher: scientists now know a bit more about the way CTLs work in general, and may be able to learn more about how the human body chooses its own microbiome in some capacity. Additionally, however, Kevin Bonham of Scientific American believes that this research may also be aimed in a different (though equally ambitious) direction: altering mosquito behavior in order to prevent the spread of mosquito born illness.
Whether you need to explore microbiomes of mosquitos, ants, mice, or humans, we are ready to help here at CosmosID. Just reach out for more information.