The findings of a study by a team of academics led by Swansea University could have far-reaching implications for the control of mosquito larvae across the world. The study, recently published by the PLOS One research journal, shows the mechanisms by which a fungus called Metarhizium anisopliae kills mosquito larvae, which could help efforts to prevent diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and dengue.
Lead author Tariq Butt talked about it in this interview with the BBC:
“The results from the study show that by simply casting the fungus spores on water we should be able to help to defeat troublesome life threatening colonies of mosquitoes which have been gradually moving north into Europe as the climate warms up,” said Dr. Butt. “Trials are currently taking place in Africa and the findings would have important consequences for tackling malaria and other mosquito-transmitted diseases.”
The study shows that the fungus infection processes which happen for terrestrial insects do not apply to mosquito larvae. The fungus is able to kill the larvae without germinating, resulting in a stress-related and fast “accidental death.” This particular fungus is not adapted for the aquatic environment and doesn’t stick to the surface of the insect. It kills its host inadvertently when ingested. The conclusion is that the death is unintentional — hence the verdict of accidental death.
“We hope that our ‘accidental death’ findings will stimulate much discussion on this topic and lead to some important and exciting developments which could eradicate the most dangerous animals on earth,” said Dr. Butt.
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