Scientists genetically modify fungus to wipe out malaria-carrying mosquitos

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 435,000 people die of mosquito-transmitted malaria each year, a parasitic disease that is both preventable and treatable. Numerous technologies and products have been developed to kill and halt the spread of mosquitos, including chemical insecticides, but scientists are increasingly struggling to compete with these insects which have become very good at evolving resistance to such chemicals.

To tackle this urgent problem in the fight against malaria, researchers from the University of Maryland have recently tried a different approach – genetically modifying a fungus using a gene found in the venom of an Australian spider. The study took place in a Burkina Faso village, where the fungus was applied to sheets hung inside test houses with an area of 608 square meters. After the 45-day trial, the scientists observed that the organism managed to wipe out more than 99 percent of malaria-carrying mosquitos.

The substance has also been designed in such a way that it would only target mosquitos and cause no harm to other pollinating insects. It also worked effectively in mosquitos who were resistant to conventional insecticides, a growing problem undermining the control of malaria in many countries.

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