A fungus — genetically enhanced to produce spider toxin — can rapidly kill huge numbers of the mosquitoes that spread malaria, a study suggests. Trials, which took place in Burkina Faso, showed mosquito populations collapsed by 99% within 45 days.
The researchers say their aim is not to make the insects extinct but to help stop the spread of malaria. The disease, which is spread when female mosquitoes drink blood, kills more than 400,000 people per year. Worldwide, there are about 219 million cases of malaria each year.
These trials sound almost entertaining:
A 6,500-sq-ft fake village — complete with plants, huts, water sources and food for the mosquitoes — was set up in Burkina Faso. It was surrounded by a double layer of mosquito netting to prevent anything escaping.
The fungal spores were mixed with sesame oil and wiped on to black cotton sheets. The mosquitoes had to land on the sheets to be exposed to the deadly fungus.
The researchers started the experiments with 1,500 mosquitoes. The results, published in the journal Science, showed numbers soared when the insects were left alone. But when the spider-toxin fungus was used, there were just 13 mosquitoes left after 45 days.
As Glenn Reynolds would say, “Faster, please.”
Cite: DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw8737