Researchers have used a fake village in Burkina Faso to test a genetically-modified fungus which kills malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
A previous study conducted on the Metarhizium fungus in Tanzania in 2005 found it did kill mosquitoes but did it so slowly the mosquito was able to transmit malaria. The fungus' own genetic code was added with the genetic instructions for producing the toxin.
Trials by the University of Maryland in the United States - and the IRSS research institute in Burkina Faso in the African country showed mosquito populations collapsed by 99 per cent within 45 days. The Fungus was then enhanced to be effective. The intention was to enable the fungus to start producing the toxin once it's inside a mosquito.More news: Neymar resumes Brazil training after injury scare
"You can think of the fungus as a hypodermic needle we use to deliver a potent insect-specific toxin into the mosquito", said Raymond St. Leger, distinguished professor of entomology at the University of Maryland. In a controlled test, the population of these risky insects collapsed once the GMO fungus was introduced into the population.
The scientists built the 6,550-square-foot space called "MosquitoSphere" with areas containing experimental huts, plants, small mosquito-breeding pools and their food source.
The researchers mixed the fungal spored with sesame oil and wiped these on to black cotton sheets.More news: Joshua suffers stunning defeat to Ruiz Jr
Another important finding that the experiment highlighted was that the fungus did not affect any other insects such as bees, which is doubly important in implementing insecticide methods such as this.
The compartments were enclosed in a greenhouse frame covered in mosquito netting so the mosquitoes inside would be exposed to normal climate conditions to make a near-field accurate simulation. But when the spider-toxin fungus was used, there were just 13 mosquitoes left after 45 days. "The prospects for controlling mosquitoes using this modified fungus are high".
However, one of the biggest threats to these programs is fears stirred up by anti-GMO groups, which might lead to bans on disease control in the same way that GMO bans have hampered the development of agricultural biotechnology around the world.More news: Search for missing Houston girl shifts to Arkansas