GM fungus kills malaria mosquitoes

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The fight against malaria has been given a significant boost after scientists made a genetically modified fungus containing spider venom, finding it wiped out disease-carrying mosquitoes within days. Making the development of the GMO fungus a more urgent priority, malaria mosquitoes are developing resistance against existing poisons and infection rates are increasing. The researchers used a toxin found in the venom of a species of the funnel-web spider in Australia.

A study carried out between the IRSS research institute in Burkina Faso in West Africa and the University of Maryland in the United States discovered a fungus called Metarhizium pingshaense (Mp). The Fungus was then enhanced to be effective.

Let's hope GMO fungus research reaches a successful conclusion - and that the anti-humanists who would rather children die of malaria than allow a fungus to be modified genetically - are unable to thwart this important humanitarian work.

"A spider uses its fangs to pierce the skin of insects and inject toxins, we replaced the fangs of spider with Metarhizium", study researcher Raymond St. Leger, from the University of Maryland, said.

This fungus was found to infect Anopheles mosquitoes, the genus of mosquito that is responsible for spreading malaria.

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The researchers engineered the naturally-occurring fungus to deliver a toxin to mosquitoes. However, after 45 days, only 13 mosquitoes were left as the spider-toxin fungus was used. They are only expressed by the fungus when in an insect. There, they divided adult mosquitoes into three groups of 1,500 each, two males to each female.

Africa still remains an area where the disease is devastating.

He added: "Our technology is not aiming to drive the extinction of mosquitoes, what we're aiming to do is break malaria transmission in an area".

Professor Michael Bonsall from the University of Oxford spoke on the potential of this new discovery.

"By following EPA and World Health Organization protocols very closely, working with the central and local government to meet their criteria and working with local communities to gain acceptance, we've broken through a barrier", lead author Lovett concluded.

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