Fungus Modified to Produce Spider Venom That Could Be Used to Kill Malaria Carrying Mosquitoes

The new super fungus can eradicate 99% of mosquitos in a given area.
Donovan Alexander

The mosquito is considered one of the world's most deadly animals.

When you think of a deadly animal you might immediately imagine a shark or snake. However, in terms of how many people it kills every year, the mosquito shoots to the top of the list. IS Global has estimated that 725,000 persons are killed each year by mosquitos. 

Now what makes this small insect so dangerous is its ability to transmit diseases, especially malaria. Each year across the globe there are approximately 219 million cases of malaria each year, with the disease killing 400,000 people per year, decimating populations in the third-world.

Some of the world's greatest minds have come together to find a way to combat Malaria. Recently, researchers have developed fungus genetically enhanced to produce spider toxins to rapidly kill out massive amounts of mosquitos, potentially preventing the spread of malaria. 


The Mosquito-Killing Spider Fungus

This super-spider fungus proved to be very effective at eradicating massive amounts of mosquitos in a relatively short period of time.

Led by a team from the University of Maryland and the IRSS research institute in Burkina Faso, trials with the new fungus demonstrated the ability to eradicate 99% of mosquito populations within 45 days.

So, what is the super fungus, you ask? 

Researchers first identified a fungus called Metarhizium pingshaense. This fungus naturally infects the species of mosquitos that directly spread malaria. Interestingly, this same fungus is extremely "malleable", allowing researchers to easily modify the fungus genetically. 

Using the extremely potent toxins of the funnel-web spider, commonly found in Australia, they modified the fungus to produce the venoms once inside the mosquito, killing it. 

The Trial

The laboratory tests showed that the modified fungus could kill quickly with only a few fungal spores. Breaking out of the lab, researchers decided to take their experiment to the real world. 

Using a 6,500-sq-ft fake village packed with plants, huts, water, and food for 1,500 mosquitos in an enclosure, to prevent any of the annoying insects from spreading, researchers ran the experiment again. 

When left alone, the mosquito population grew. However, when the deadly fungus was introduced, within 45 days, that population dropped to just about 13 mosquitoes. Even more so, researchers from the study say that this weaponized fungus does not affect other insects. 

Researchers are eager to find new ways to combat malaria as mosquitos are becoming resistant to insecticides. Studies like these hold a lot of promise.