A fungus to fight malaria?


From a report in The Scientist Daily today:

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.”

Read more: Fungus fights malaria? – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/58028/#ixzz1EuapNz8Z
Difficulties in developing this solution for use in the field promise no quick results.  Testing remains to be done on the process — and then there is the issue of how to infect the proper species of mosquito in the field.  Additionally, since this process involves genetic modification, there will be a raft of government approvals to contend with before deploying it, if it ever is deployed.

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.”

Researchers at several different places pursue very different routes to help ease malaria — not one of them involving an increase in DDT use.
More:
  • Original article in Science:
    W. Fang et al., “Development of Transgenic Fungi That Kill Human Malaria Parasites in Mosquitoes,” Science 311: 1074-77 

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One Response to A fungus to fight malaria?

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Also see:

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