The trial decimated the target mosquito population in only 45 days. The project was inspired by the observation that fungus spores can land on the surface of an insect and ultimately infect, or kill, its host. Researchers worked to supercharge the toxicity of a type of fungus called Metarhizium pingshaensei, a natural killer of disease-carrying mosquitoes. First, the fungus was genetically engineered to express toxins from the North African desert scorpion and from the Australian Blue Mountains funnel-web spider. The fungus was not harmful to other species such as honeybees. When this fungus detects that it is on a mosquito, it penetrates the mosquito’s cuticle and enters the insect. A large screened-in structure was constructed, called the MosquitoSphere.
The MosquitoSphere structure, built for experiment
“Simply applying the transgenic fungus to a sheet that we hung on a wall in our study area caused the mosquito populations to crash within 45 days,” explains Brain Lovett, lead author on the new study. This technology is designed to temporarily reduce specific populations and stop broader malarial outbreaks. More tests have to be performed. The experiment was prepared by researchers at the University of Maryland in the US and the IRSS research institute in Burkina Faso.