Fungus may stop malaria's spread

A study funded by the National Institutes of Health has found that spraying malaria-transmitting mosquitoes with a particular kind of genetically-modified fungus can kill the malaria parasite without harming the mosquito, which could reduce malaria transmission to humans.

The study, which was led by Raymond J. St. Leger of the University of Maryland - College Park, was recently published in the journal Science, reports. The current major treatment for malaria in sub-Saharan African countries is preventative, which includes treating walls and bed nets with insecticides.

These insecticides are beginning to become less effective as mosquitoes having gained a resistance to them.

“Because mosquitoes increasingly are evolving to evade the malaria control methods currently in use, NIAID-supported scientists are testing new, innovative ways to prevent malaria that we hope can be developed into tools that will be effective for years to come,” Anthony S. Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, said, according to

The method of spraying genetically-adapted fungus on the mosquitoes evolved from a previous idea that actually killed the insect with the fungus. This more focused approach uses the modified metarhizium anisopliae fungus to block the development of the malaria parasite without killing the mosquito, reports. The fungus prevents the parasite from binding to the salivary glands of the mosquito, which makes transmission from mosquitoes to humans much less likely.

The study found that after infecting mosquitoes with the parasite, only 25 percent who had been sprayed with the fungus had the malaria parasite on their salivary glands, while 94 percent of the unsprayed mosquitoes were infected. Eighty-seven percent of mosquitoes who had the non-modified version of the fungus were infected.  

“Our principal aim now is to get this technology into the field,” Dr. St. Leger said, according to “We also would like to test some additional fungal variants to make sure we have the optimized malaria-blocking pathogen.”

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