Scientists have genetically modified a fungus so that it can kill mosquitoes as part of a new drive to fight malaria. It reduced mosquito populations by more than 99 per cent, according to the study published in the journal Science.
They added that the aim is not to make the insects extinct but to help stop the spread of malaria in Africa. The Fungus was then enhanced to be effective.
"They are very malleable, you can very easily engineer them genetically". Developed using a gene from a funnel-web spider, the fungus produces a deadly toxin after it finds its way into insect blood. This would mean the fungus would produce the toxin itself once it was inside a mosquito.
The set-up allowed the researchers to test the fungus in real-world conditions without risking its release into the wild.
The fungus was tested in a structure called the MosquitoSphere - which included plants, huts, small pools of water and a food source for mosquitoes. It was surrounded by a double layer of mosquito netting to prevent anything escaping.
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He added: "I´d be disappointed by any player being booed at any cricket ground, regardless of what country they play for". They can put you out of the park pretty readily. "It is really important that people show some respect as well".
After mixing the fungal spores with sesame oil, the researchers wiped them on to black cotton sheets. The mosquitoes would be exposed to the fungus once they land on these sheets. There were 1,500 mosquitoes used for the experiments. But when the spider-toxin fungus was used, there were just 13 mosquitoes left after 45 days.
A previous study conducted on the Metarhizium fungus in Tanzania in 2005 found it did kill mosquitoes but did it so slowly the mosquito was able to transmit malaria.
As Professor Michael Bonsall, a University of Oxford scientist who was not involved with the study, commented: "Proportionate bio-safety regulations are needed to ensure that the viability of this and other approaches for vector [mosquito] control using genetic methods are not lost through overly zealous restrictions".
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. "We need new and complementary tools to augment existing control methods, which are being affected by the development of insecticide-resistance".