Fungus May Be The Answer To Ending Insect-Borne Disease
Brian Lovett, a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland, College Park, recently won the Fungal Biology and Biotechnology prize for his work on using fungi as a control method for mosquitos that spread diseases such as malaria, the Zika virus, and dengue fever. Brian claims that fungi will prove to be the “ultimate nemesis of insects.”
Brian chose to work with fungus in his research due to their unique ability to make their way past the protective cuticle on insects and burrow their way inside, a feat that has not been accomplished by any other organism. They can also be manipulated to target very specific hosts. Brian and his team modified a fungus that was already a natural killer of mosquitos to release an “insect-specific spider toxin (the hybrid toxin from the blue mountain funnel web spider in Australia)” into the mosquito’s blood stream. This particular toxin is much more effective at killing mosquitos than any other used thus far.
The particular significance of this breakthrough is its potential as a mosquito control method. Adding this new method to the existing arsenal of mosquito control methods could drastically help reduce the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria, yellow fever, and the most recent threat of the Zika virus. I say let this kid do his thing. It’s about time we gained some ground against those blood-sucking mosquitos.
Should the government support this new research into fungus as a mosquito control method? How would better control of mosquitos change the world we live in?