Can spider toxin end malaria?

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Writing in the UK's Guardian newspaper, Rebecca Ratcliffe reports that a genetically modified fungus that kills malaria-carrying mosquitoes could provide a breakthrough in the fight against the disease.

Trials in Burkina Faso found that a fungus, altered so that it produces a toxin found in the venom of a species of funnel-web spider, quickly killed large numbers of mosquitoes that carry malaria.

Within 45 days, mosquito populations were drastically reduced by more than 90%, according to researchers at the University of Maryland and the IRSS (Research Institute of Health Sciences) in Burkina Faso.

Researchers selected for modification a fungus, metarhizium pingshaense, which infects malaria-carrying mosquitoes naturally. Laboratory trials showed that the genetically altered version killed mosquitoes more quickly, with fewer spores, than wild fungus.

According to the study, reported in the journal Science, mosquitoes were...

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