GM fungus causes 'crash' in mosquito populations, study suggests

Malaria Mosquitoes

Malaria Mosquitoes. Image via Wikipedia

Conducting the study, researchers at the University of Maryland in the United States - and the IRSS research institute in Burkina Faso - first identified a fungus called Metarhizium pingshaense, which naturally infects the Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria.

Reports of a breakthrough genetically modified (GM) fungus that kills 99 per cent of malaria mosquitoes are coming in thick and fast.

The fungus naturally infects the Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria.

"Simply applying the transgenic fungus to a sheet that we hung on a wall in our study area caused the mosquito populations to crash within 45 days", said Brian Lovett, a graduate entomology student who is lead author of the new paper.

"And it is as effective at killing insecticide-resistant mosquitoes as non-resistant ones".

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

"A spider uses its fangs to pierce the skin of insects and inject toxins, we replaced the fangs of spider with Metarhizium", Professor Raymond St Leger of the University of Maryland explained.

The scientists used a strain of the fungus that is specific to mosquitoes and engineered it to produce a toxin that increased the virulence of the pathogen so that it could kill the insects faster than they can breed, thereby reduce mosquito populations.

The researchers used a toxin present in an Australian species of funnel-web spider's venom.

The fungus was tested in a structure called the MosquitoSphere - which included plants, huts, small pools of water and a food source for mosquitoes. The mosquitoes would be exposed to the fungus once they land on these sheets.

They found that spraying the disputes of the fungus Metarhizium in the tents reduces mosquito bites, but not destroy them completely.

The Malaria disease is spread when female mosquitoes drink blood. The main disease vectors are mosquitoes.

"The prospects for controlling mosquitoes using this modified fungus are high".

Commenting on the findings, Prof Michael Bonsall, from the University of Oxford, said: "Neat - this is a super-exciting study".

Latest News