TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Researchers engineered a fungus from the venom of an Australian spider that can be used as a new weapon in the fight against malaria.
They found that a fungus, enhanced by the gene of the Australian Blue Mountains funnel-web spider, killed large numbers of malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
During the trails, the researchers reported a 99% collapse in mosquito populations. The researchers from the University of Maryland and the Research Institute of Health Sciences in Burkina Faso genetically modified Metarhizium pingshaense, a fungus that is naturally fatal to mosquitoes, to increase its lethality, ScienceTimes reported.
The trials happened in a habitat that is surrounded by mosquito netting, and they found that mosquitoes that are exposed to the toxin died faster than the unexposed insects and those that were exposed to the naturally occurring fungus.
Brian Lovett, the author of the study, said: “Using this technology and applying it in the way that we are proposing, which is to target the mosquitoes that come into peoples houses, we would expect it to have a really large impact on mosquito populations, and to impact on disease transmission as a result.”
Malaria is a disease that is transmitted through the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes. An estimated 435,000 people die of malaria every year, but it is both preventable and treatable. The data from the World Health Organization suggests malaria is making comeback, with 219 million cases in 2017, compared with 217 million in 2016.
Numerous products and technologies have been created to kill and to stop the spread of mosquitoes, including chemical insecticides, but scientists are constantly competing with insecticide resistance in mosquitoes.
“A very big problem is that mosquito populations are huge and very widespread, and tend to be very strongly connected. Most of the control methods for many years have relied on chemical insecticides, and mosquitoes are very good at evolving resistance to the insecticide. Resistance tends to spread very quickly, and problematic levels of resistance are occurring right throughout Africa,” said David Weetman, a senior lecturer at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine told CNN who was not involved in the research.
The method that is suggested by the researchers at the University of Maryland is made to be easy and cheap to implement, using only the fungus, cloth, and the locally produced sesame oil.
“We were looking for a way of very cheaply and easily providing the fungus, a way which citizens can do for themselves,” said Raymond St. Leger from the University of Maryland, one of the study’s authors.