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Editorials

Scientists add spider gene into fungus to kill mosquitoes

Mosquito diseases such as malaria kill tens of thousands of people every year. In order to help stop such diseases,
Published June 1, 2019 Updated June 3, 2019

Mosquito diseases such as malaria kill tens of thousands of people every year. In order to help stop such diseases, scientists have used a spider gene to genetically modify a fungus that kills the deadly insects.

Researchers from the University of Maryland used genetic engineering to genetically modify a fungus in order to produce spider toxin that instantly kills mosquitoes.

According to the study published the journal Science, the fungus that was modified kills mosquitoes in the wild, but is not really quick and leaves the insects with time to infect someone with malaria before dying.

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Hence, in order to give it a boost, the researchers engineered it to produce a toxin derived from the venom of the Australian Blue Mountains funnel-web spider, which kills mosquitoes way more quickly, as per Futurism.

The fungus was then tested in a ‘MosquitoSphere’, a screen-enclosed setting in West Africa designed to mimic a village. “Simply applying the transgenic fungus to a sheet that we hung on a wall in our study area caused the mosquito populations to crash within 45 days,” lead author Brian Lovett said. “And it is as effective at killing insecticide-resistant mosquitoes as non-resistant ones.”

During the out-of-lab trial, the modified fungus was able to cut down mosquito population by more than 99%. However, while the technique may have been effective, people worry that releasing a genetically engineered organism into the wild can lead to unforeseen problems.

“This study raises several urgent concerns,” Dana Perls of the environmental group Friends of the Earth told NPR. “Genetic engineering of fungus could have problematic negative public health impacts and unpredictable ripple effects on ecosystems, affecting pollinators, bats, and bees. Like with all genetic engineering, this needs to be addressed with great caution.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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