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Mosquito-Killing Fungus

Photo of mosquito.

Scientists have developed a new weapon against disease carrying mosquitoes. (CDC, Wikimedia Commons)

There’s been a lot of research lately about how we can get rid of malaria-carrying mosquito populations.

One way might be to use a transgenic fungus. There’s a certain fungus found in the wild that already infects and kills insects, but a team of researchers made it a lot more deadly: they genetically modified it to produce a toxin derived from the venom of the Australian Blue Mountains funnel-web spider. To test whether it could decrease mosquito populations, researchers constructed a structure in Burkina Faso that contained chambers with huts, plants, pools and food.

They hung a piece of black cloth soaked in sesame oil inside a hut in each of three chambers. One sheet had oil mixed with the transgenic fungus, one had oil mixed with the naturally-occurring fungus, and one with just oil. Then, scientists released 1,000 male mosquitoes and 500 female mosquitoes into each chamber.

After 45 days, the population in the chamber with the transgenic fungus went down to just 13 mosquitoes. In the chamber with the naturally-occurring fungus, it went down to 455, and in the one with plain oil, to 1,396. The female mosquitoes infected with the fungus also laid far fewer eggs than normal.

It was important to the scientists to use materials like cotton and sesame oil that are relatively inexpensive and accessible, so regular people can implement the technique if the fungus becomes affordable and accessible as well.

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