GM fungus causes ‘crash’ in mosquito populations, study suggests

Researchers create fake village filled with genetically-modified fungus to fight malaria

‘A big step forward’: fungus enhanced with spider toxin proves deadly for mosquitoes

A 6,500-sq-ft fake village - complete with plants, huts, water sources and food for the mosquitoes - was set up in Burkina Faso. Back row (from left to right): Etienne Bilgo, Oliver Zida, Bema Ouattara; Middle row: Boureima Saré, Judicael Zida, Brian Lovett, Moussa Ouattara, MichaÏlou Sanfo and Bamory Ouattara; Front row: Yaya Ouattara and Jacques Gnambani.

Scientists from the University of Maryland and Burkina Faso applied the pathogen to a sheet, which was hung up in a mock-up village. Game!"World mind games": the premiere of "the World" who Experts estimate that each year from 124 to 283 million people contract malaria, of whom 367 - 755 thousand die".

An worldwide group of scientists from the United States and Burkina Faso "improved" the fungus by using the gene of the Hybrid neurotoxin and tested in conditions as close to real. But when the spider-toxin fungus was used, there were just 13 mosquitoes left after 45 days. In order to be exposed to the deadly fungus, the mosquitoes had to land on the sheets.

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Laboratory tests showed the genetically modified fungus could kill quicker, and that it took fewer fungal spores to do the job.

They found that the fungus - a version of naturally-occurring Metarhizium pingshaense engineered to express an insect-killing toxin produced by the Australian Blue Mountains funnel-web spider - reduced populations of mosquitoes by more than 99 percent. They published their results Friday in the journal Science.

Another important finding that the experiment highlighted was that the fungus did not affect any other insects such as bees, which is doubly important in implementing insecticide methods such as this.

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New tools are needed to tackle malaria as mosquitoes are becoming resistant to insecticides.

The spider venom toxin has additionally already been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency for outdoor use as a biopesticide to control lepidopteran (moths and butterflies) pests.

The Malaria disease is spread when female mosquitoes drink blood. With the World Health Organization stressing that cases in the 10 worst affected countries in Africa are increasing, it's paramount that pioneering research in this area continues.

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