By: Metacafe Affiliate U
BY MIRANDA WHEATLEY
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It’s another weapon in the battle against malaria. Researchers for a study led by the University of Maryland say they’ve identified a genetically engineered fungus to combat malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
According to Popular Science current Malaria prevention relies heavily on insecticides to kill the mosquitoes carrying the disease but the pests are evolving quickly to resist it - leaving scientists scrambling for more options.
Previous prevention experiments involved genetically altering mosquitoes but researchers say their fungus isn’t limited to mosquitoes. It could even be used to control other diseases such as dengue fever and Lyme disease. Professor of Entomology at the University of Maryland, Raymond St. Leger, explains...
“Malaria is, of all the insect born diseases, insect vector diseases, that’s the one that kills the most people. Currently killing about a million people a year, mostly children, mostly in sub-Sahara Africa. ... The best method for mosquitoes in particular is fungus. ... Let the mosquito live and selectively kill the malaria."
While pesticides aim to kill mosquitoes, the fungus approach infects them instead. US News and World Reports says even though it doesn’t sound good - keeping the mosquitoes alive allows them to mate and gives the bugs less of a chance to evolve resistance to the fungus.
Not to the mention the fungi’s practical application potential...
”scientists can mix [the fungi] into house paint or weave into mosquito nets...”
Praise for the fungus’ ability to kill the malaria parasite, plasmodium, is wide spread but Senior Scholar at the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State University, Andrew Read tells NPR there are other things to consider...
“It does open up the prospect that the malaria could become resistant to what you put in the fungus.”
Read also says using different versions of the anti-malarial proteins in the fungus can keep researchers one-step ahead of the parasite. So far scorpion toxins and a protein called SM1 have been used successfully.
A link to the study can be found in our transcript section.
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