Could a mosquito killing spider juice be the key to eradicate Malaria? Scientists have genetically modified a fungus, allowing it to kill more quickly the mosquitoes carrying the disease, explain the BBC and the Guardian.
Could a spider and a mushroom eventually kill malaria? This is suggested by an experiment conducted in Burkina Faso by researchers at the American University of Maryland, which has reduced mosquito populations, which transmit the disease, by 99% in just 45 days, as reported by the BBC and the Guardian. This could be a major step forward in the fight against the disease.
For their tests, researchers selected a fungus called Metarhizium pingshaense that naturally infects mosquitoes that carry malaria. They genetically modified it by integrating a toxin from the venom of a species of spider native to Australia. The results showed that the GM fungus could kill mosquitoes faster by releasing the toxin once they had ingested it. “A spider uses its fangs to pierce the skin of insects and inject toxins, we replaced the fangs of the spider with Metarhizium,” Professor Raymond St Leger of the University of Maryland told the BBC.
The researchers started their experiments with 1,500 mosquitoes. Some of them were exposed to the deadly fungus: after 45 days, there were only 13 left, while the number of unexposed insects increased significantly at the same time, according to the results published in the journal Science. “The transgenic fungus quickly destroyed the mosquito population in just two generations,” said Dr. Brian Lovett, again to the BBC. Tests have shown that this fungus is not deadly for other insects, such as bees. “Our goal is not to cause the extinction of mosquitoes, but to stop the transmission of malaria in the region,” said Dr. Brian Lovett.
This method is still in its infancy and many regulatory hurdles still need to be overcome to extend testing to other regions, the Guardian says. The British daily adds that new tools are needed to fight malaria, while mosquitoes are increasingly resistant to insecticides. According to the World Health Organization, there were 219 million cases of malaria in 2017 in 87 countries. This disease was the cause of 435,000 deaths worldwide the same year.