Health Care

Laboratory Fungus 'Kills 99 Percent of Malaria Mosquitoes'

Laboratory Fungus 'Kills 99 Percent of Malaria Mosquitoes'”

The experiment was conducted by scientists from the University of Maryland (UMD) in the U.S. and the IRSS research institute in Burkina Faso and its findings published this week in the journal Science. By the end of the 45-day trial, the spider toxin fungus wiped out 99 percent of the mosquito population.

Researchers from the University of Maryland in the U.S. engineered the fungus to deliver a toxin to mosquitoes.

"No transgenic malaria control has come this far down the road toward actual field testing", Brian Lovett, from the University of Maryland, said.

According to statistics carried out by World Health Organization, the disease kills more than 400,000 people per year while 219 million cases of malaria are recorded each year.

Worldwide, there are about 219 million cases of malaria each year.

New tools are needed to tackle malaria as mosquitoes are becoming resistant to insecticides. The fungus' own genetic code was added with the genetic instructions for producing the toxin.

"They are very malleable, you can very easily engineer them genetically". Developed using a gene from a funnel-web spider, the fungus produces a deadly toxin after it finds its way into insect blood.

The set-up allowed the researchers to test the fungus in real-world conditions without risking its release into the wild.

The scientists built the 6,550-square-foot space called "MosquitoSphere" with areas containing experimental huts, plants, small mosquito-breeding pools and their food source.

However, critics are concerned that the genetically modified fungus could impact other insects and even animals. However, once they were exposed to the spider-toxin fungus, only 13 of these insects were left after 45 days.

As Professor Michael Bonsall, a University of Oxford scientist who was not involved with the study, commented: "Proportionate bio-safety regulations are needed to ensure that the viability of this and other approaches for vector [mosquito] control using genetic methods are not lost through overly zealous restrictions".

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