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99% Malaria Mosquitoes Killed By Transgenic Fungus In First Field Trial

mosquitobiting 053112 31may19

A transgenic fungus, developed by a team of researchers from the University of Maryland, has been able to kill 99 percent of malaria mosquitoes in a West African study.

The study marks the first outside-of-a-lab trial of a transgenic method of fighting malaria. A transgenic animal or plant contains one or more genes that have been added from another type of plant or animal. (Source: Cambridge English Dictionary).

For the study, the researchers used the fungus Metarhizium pingshaense, and genetically engineered it to produce a spider bite toxin called Hybrid.

Hybrid is derived from the venom of the Australian Blue Mountains funnel-web spider and has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for application directly on crops to control agricultural insect pests.

In the test site, conducted in a screen-enclosed, simulated village setting in Burkina Faso, West Africa, the researchers hung a black cotton sheet coated with sesame oil on the wall in each of three chambers. In one sheet, oil
mixed with the transgenic fungus Metarhizium pingshaense was applied, in the second sheet, oil with wild-type Metarhizium was applied, and in the third, only sesame oil was applied.

Into each of the chambers, the researchers released 1,000 adult male and 500 adult female mosquitoes to establish breeding populations. The researchers took count of the mosquitoes in each chamber every day for 45 days.

After 45 days, the researchers were in for a surprise...

There were only 13 adult mosquitoes in the chamber where the sheet treated with
the transgenic fungus was hung. By sharp contrast, the chamber containing the sheet treated with wild-type fungus had 455 mosquitoes, and the one which had a sheet treated with only plain sesame oil had 1,396 mosquitoes.

This experiment was conducted multiple times, and similar results were produced each time.

An interesting aspect about this experiment is that the transgenic fungi were very selective in the sense that they produced the toxin only inside the body of a mosquito. When the researchers tested their modified fungus on other insects they found that it did not cause harm to beneficial species such as honeybees.

The trial findings are published in the journal Science.

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