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Cure for Malaria? Genetically Modified Fungus Wiped Out 99% Parasite-Infested Mosquitoes in Trial

The supercharged fungus wiped out more than 99 per cent of mosquitoes within one and a half month of the trial conducted in a 6,500-sq-foot fake village - complete with plants, huts, water sources and food for the mosquitoes - in Burkina Faso.

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Updated:May 31, 2019, 2:50 PM IST
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Cure for Malaria? Genetically Modified Fungus Wiped Out 99% Parasite-Infested Mosquitoes in Trial
The supercharged fungus wiped out more than 99 per cent of mosquitoes within one and a half month of the trial conducted in a 6,500-sq-foot fake village - complete with plants, huts, water sources and food for the mosquitoes - in Burkina Faso.
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A genetically modified fungus wiped out 99 per cent of malaria mosquitoes during a 45-day long trial in West Africa.

Researchers at the University of Maryland in the US and the IRSS research institute in Burkina Faso identified and enhanced a fungus called Metarhizium pingshaense by using a toxin found in the venom of a species of funnel-web spider in Australia, according to BBC.

Metarhizium pingshaense naturally infects the Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria.

The supercharged fungus wiped out more than 99 per cent of mosquitoes within one and a half month of the trial conducted in a 6,500-sq-foot fake village - complete with plants, huts, water sources and food for the mosquitoes - in Burkina Faso.

Dubbed the ‘MosquitoSphere’, the ‘village’ was surrounded by a double layer of mosquito netting.

“No transgenic malaria control has come this far down the road towards actual field testing,” Brian Lovett, who was lead author of the study published in the journal Science, said.

“This paper marks a big step and sets a precedent for this and other transgenic methods to move forward,” Lovett was quoted as saying.

"A spider uses its fangs to pierce the skin of insects and inject toxins, we replaced the fangs of spider with Metarhizium," Prof Raymond St Leger, from the University of Maryland, told BBC News.

The researchers started the experiments with 1,500 mosquitoes and results 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,” BBC reported.

The researchers said their technology was not “aiming to drive the extinction of mosquitoes” but just “break malaria transmission in an area."

Anopheles mosquitos are a major carrier of the malaria parasite which kills 400,000 people a year.

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