Scientists produce fungus that can kill mosquitoes

Researcher Etienne Bilgo looks at a breeding site in the MosquitoSphere.     
                    Courtesy of Oliver Zida            
      hide caption

Genetically modified organisms offer so much potential to save lives, improve the environment, and generally promote a more prosperous and healthier future.

An worldwide group of scientists from the United States and Burkina Faso "improved" the fungus by using the gene of the Hybrid neurotoxin and tested in conditions as close to real.

The MosquitoSphere team consists of authors on the paper and local volunteers from Soumousso, Burkina Faso.

The scientists used a strain of the fungus that is specific to mosquitoes and engineered it to produce a toxin that increased the virulence of the pathogen so that it could kill the insects faster than they can breed, thereby reduce mosquito populations. The difference, however, was that the replica village was surrounded by a double-layer mosquito net to prevent any unwanted specimens from breaking free.

After mixing the fungal spores with sesame oil, the researchers wiped them on to black cotton sheets.

In a scientific experiment used the fungus Metarhizium. They published their results Friday in the journal Science.

It seems to me the only real question remaining is the potential unintended consequences on other fauna.

The fungus naturally infects the Anopheles mosquito, which is the only mosquito genus which carries the disease, and its genetic code was edited so it would start making the spider toxin once it comes into contact with hemolymph, which is the insect equivalent of blood.

However, one of the biggest threats to these programs is fears stirred up by anti-GMO groups, which might lead to bans on disease control in the same way that GMO bans have hampered the development of agricultural biotechnology around the world. As I wrote here, that's flat-out anti-human.

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.

Photo credit: Егор Камелев via Unsplash.



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