UK scientists have made a potential breakthrough in the effort to control malaria by developing a genetically modified fungi.
Genetic modifications to the fungi, developed by Professor Angray Kang in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Westminster, Antibody Technology Group (ATG), make it able to kill human malaria parasites in mosquitoes.
This discovery has been heralded as a significant development in the battle against malaria.
Metarhizium anisopliae, a fungus found in soils throughout the world, infects adult mosquitoes through the cuticle.
This was genetically modified by the research group and used to infect malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
The fungus killed the malaria parasite in the mosquitoes preventing it from being passed onto humans.
Professor Angray Kang says: “This is a major development in the battle against malaria. Efforts to control the disease are normally hampered by an increased resistance of parasites and mosquitoes to drugs and insecticides respectively.
“This will be a crucial part of the solution of eradicating malaria.
“It is important to understand that we do not treat people using this method, but cure the mosquito before it has had a chance to infect a person. This innovative approach could also offer a solution for controlling other devastating vector-borne diseases.”
Upon contact with the mosquito, the fungus immediately bores in through the cuticle. As the fungus eats away at the inside of the mosquito, it multiplies and occupies the mosquito’s circulatory system (haemolymph), eventually killing the insect.
This is the same fluid that the malaria parasite has to navigate through to reach the salivary glands and to become infectious.
By genetically engineering the fungus to release anti-malarial agents into the haemolymph, it is possible to prevent the malaria parasites from reaching its infectious destination.
University of Westminster 2011