Genetically Modified Fungus to Kill Female Malaria Mosquitoes

Malaria is a life threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. WHO continues to highlight the urgent need for new and improved tools in the global response to malaria.

Recently researchers from the University of Maryland in US and the IRSS research institute in Burkina Faso genetically enhanced a fungus called Metarhizium pingshaense so it produces spider toxin.  This genetically modified fungus has the ability of killing a large number of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. For testing the fungus, the research team designed a fake village in Burkino Faso, West Africa.

In the trial researchers used 1500 mosquitoes, the number of mosquitoes increased when they were left alone. After the exposure of Fungus, only 13 mosquitoes were left in the trial. This trial showed that the modified fungus have the ability of killing the mosquitoes in a very short period of time by just infecting them.  The genetically modified fungus can be genetically engineered very easily.

To modify the fungus researchers used a toxin which is found in the venom of a species of funnel-web spider in Australia. Once inside the mosquito, this fungus start producing that toxin and hence infect the Anopheles mosquitoes. As per the study researcher Mr. Raymond St. Leger, “A spider uses its fangs to pierce the skin of insects and inject toxins, we replaced the fangs of spider with Metarhizium”.

As per the Journal “science” in which results of this trial were published, the genetically modified fungus could kill 99%% of the mosquitoes population in just a month and half. According to Mr. Raymond St. Leger and their colleagues “Deployment of transgenic Metarhizium against mosquitoes could be rapid, with products that could synergistically integrate with existing chemical control strategies to avert insecticide resistance”.

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