June 04, 2019
Additional studies will be required, but researchers may have discovered a breakthrough in the fight against malaria. Researchers from the University of Maryland, and the Research Institute of Health Sciences in Burkina Faso have been investigating a fungus that naturally infects Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria.
This fungus, Metarhizium pingshaense, was genetically enhanced with a toxin found in the venom of an Australian spider, the funnel-web. The researchers were able to include the DNA instructions for making this venom into the DNA of the fungus, which meant the fungus was able to start producing the toxic substance once it was inside an infected mosquito.
The genetically modified fungus was then tested out on mosquitoes in an experiment that mimicked a natural environment. Mosquitoes that were infected by the fungus died at high rates, in fact, the population collapsed by 99% in just 45 days. This may be the tool that finally breaks the cycle of malaria transmission, in an age where mosquitoes are becoming increasingly resistant to known insecticides.
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