Mosquito-killer fungus to help war on malaria
A fungus genetically engineered to produce spider venom can quickly kill mosquitoes that spread malaria, a study suggests.
Scientists from the University of Maryland and Burkina Faso applied the pathogen to a sheet, which was hung up in a mock-up village in the west African country.
The approach was successful in reducing mosquito populations by more than 99pc, according to the study published in the journal 'Science'.
"No transgenic malaria control has come this far down the road toward actual field testing," Brian Lovett, of the University of Maryland, said.
"This paper marks a big step and sets a precedent for this and other transgenic methods to move forward."
The researchers engineered the naturally occurring fungus to deliver a toxin to mosquitoes.
The toxin, an insecticide called Hybrid, comes from the venom of the Australian Blue Mountains funnel-web spider.
The fungus was tested in a simulated village setting called the MosquitoSphere, which included plants, huts, small pools of water and a food source for mosquitoes.
Mr Lovett said: "Simply applying the transgenic fungus to a sheet that we hung on a wall in our study area caused the mosquito populations to crash within 45 days.
"And it is as effective at killing insecticide-resistant mosquitoes as non-resistant ones."
The fungus was found to be safe for other insects and honey bees.
More than 400,000 people die from malaria every year, according to the World Health Organisation.