Malaria can now be stopped by genetically modified fungus

Jie Chen, Staff Writer

Recently, scientists added a genetic code into a fungus and now it will produce spider toxin and kills mosquitoes that spreads malaria.

In 2017, over 219 million people in 87 countries was infected with malaria, in them, 435,000 died. Africa had the most infected, 92 percent of infected and 93 percent of death all came from Africa.

In an experiment taken place in Burkina Faso, West Africa, researchers from University of Maryland deployed 1500 pesticide-resistant mosquitoes into a fake village with the size of 6500-sq-ft, surrounded by double layers of mosquitoes netting to prevent them from escaping. Inside the fake village there are plenty of food and water, making it a good habitat for the mosquitoes.

It doesn’t take long for the fungi to kill off the mosquitoes. According to the result of the experiment, it killed off two generations of the mosquitoes and only 13 left after 45 days. Also, the test showed that the fungi was specific to the mosquitoes that carries malaria, other insects will not be affected, the intent was not the extinction of insects but just to stop malaria spreading.

The fungus that got the modification is the Metarhizium Pingshaense, it original holds the ability to infect and kill mosquitoes, but after this modification it made it deadlier and more effective.

“We’re just bypassing the spider fangs and getting the fungus to do the same job.” Says Raymond St.Leger, an entomologist from University of Maryland, and the study coauthor of this project.


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