In DepthMalaria

Fungus with a venom gene could be new mosquito killer

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Science  31 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6443, pp. 817
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6443.817

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Summary

In the 1980s, the village of Soumousso in Burkina Faso helped launch one of the most powerful weapons against malaria: insecticide-treated bed nets, which had early field trials there and went on to save millions of lives. But as mosquitoes developed resistance to widely used insecticides, the nets lost some of their power. Now, researchers are hoping the village can help make history again by testing a new countermeasure: a genetically modified fungus that kills malaria-carrying mosquitoes. In tests in a 600-square-meter structure in Soumousso called the MosquitoSphere—built like a greenhouse but with mosquito netting instead of glass—the fungus eliminated 99% of the mosquitoes within a month. But despite the impressive numbers, the fungus is a long way from real-world use. Because it is genetically modified to make it more lethal, it could face steep regulatory obstacles. At the same time, the fungus also has clear advantages: It spares insects other than mosquitoes, and because it doesn't survive long in sunlight, it's unlikely to spread outside the building interiors where it would be applied.

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