Mosquitoes aren't just pests that bother us during humid summer nights. These little guys have the ability to carry some serious diseases that can cause death. However, scientists have a new way of fighting these mosquitoes using a super fungus engineered with spider and scorpion toxins.
Yes – it's Frankenstein fungi. And this new invention could wipe out malaria-carrying mosquitos that plague parts of the world. Another cool thing about it? It turns mosquitos a radioactive green color. If this new deadly fungi can kill malaria mosquitoes effectively, some 500,000 people each year could survive the deadly disease.
This Special Fungus Is Designed To Fight Malaria
For decades, scientists have been trying to combat malaria – a mosquito-borne disease that affects millions of people worldwide. While it is curable, in underdeveloped countries where access to good healthcare is limited, it can prove deadly. This is why scientists are fixated on finding a way to stop mosquitoes from spreading the disease without killing them entirely.
Scientists from the University of Maryland discovered a way to kill only mosquitoes infected with the disease. They engineered a fungus from scorpion and spider venom that produces a malaria-killing fungal strain. One spore from this fungus can take out a malaria-carrying mosquito.
It's Not Harmful To Other Types Of Insects Or Humans
This particular type of fungi only affects infected mosquitos, according to researchers. They did a test to see whether it would hurt humans or other insects, such as bees. Initial research shows they seem to be unaffected.
"The toxins we're using are potent, but totally specific to insects," said Raymond St. Leger, a distinguished university professor at the University of Maryland's Department of Entomology. "The fungus does nothing at all to bees and other beneficial species. So we have several different layers of biosecurity at work."
What Could This Mean For The World?
Researchers said they want to introduce this fungus into parts of Africa where malaria is most dangerous. They've built custom enclosures in Burkina Faso that entice mosquitoes inside, only to be met with the potent fungi. They want to build other structures around the country – as well as release the spores out into the open air – after they determine they're completely safe for humans and other insects.
Because there is no effective and quick treatment for malaria, a lot of cities in Africa are extremely susceptible to it. It's estimated that nearly 500,000 people die a year from the disease, with the majority being in Africa.