Researchers have engineered transgenic fungi that drill into mosquitoes and kill the malaria parasite inside — the first tool of its kind — a February 25, 2011 study in Science reported.
Used in conjunction with traditional insecticide methods against mosquitoes, experts say this bioinsecticide has the potential to greatly improve malaria eradication efforts.
Mosquito infected with pathogenic fungus Metarhizium
Image: Courtesy of Raymond St. Leger
“This is a great example of trying to be innovative and use novel ways to look at this problem,” said Matt Thomas, a disease ecologist at Penn State who was not involved in the research. “It’s a move outside the existing insecticide paradigm, which has dominated parasite and vector control for 40-50 years.”
Unfortunately, putting the new technique into action may not be an easy task. “There are already difficult challenges in taking forward biopesticide technology,” said Thomas. “Now we’re adding in the additional regulatory and ethical issues around genetically modified organisms. It’s not a hurdle we should just dismiss as unimportant.”