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New study shows ability of transgenic fungi to combat malaria and other bug-borne diseases
Date:2/24/2011

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - New findings by a University of Maryland-led team of scientists indicate that a genetically engineered fungus carrying genes for a human anti-malarial antibody or a scorpion anti-malarial toxin could be a highly effective, specific and environmentally friendly tool for combating malaria, at a time when the effectiveness of current pesticides against malaria mosquitoes is declining.

In a study published in the February 25 issue of the journal Science, the researchers also say that this general approach could be used for controlling other devastating insect and tick bug-borne diseases, such as or dengue fever and Lyme disease. "Though applied here to combat malaria, our transgenic fungal approach is a very flexible one that allows design and delivery of gene products targeted to almost any disease-carrying arthropod," said Raymond St. Leger, a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland.

"In this current study we show that spraying malaria-transmitting mosquitoes with a fungus genetically altered to produce molecules that target malaria-causing sporozoites could reduce disease transmission to humans by at least five-fold compared to using an un-engineered fungus," St. Leger said.

St. Leger, his post doctoral researcher Weiguo Fang and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the University of Westminster, London created their transgenic anti-malarial fungus, by starting with Metarhizium anisopliae, a fungus that naturally attacks mosquitoes, and then inserting into it genes for a human antibody or a scorpion toxin. Both the antibody and the toxin specifically target the malaria-causing parasite P. falciparum. The team then compared three groups of mosquitoes all heavily infected with the malaria parasite. In the first group were mosquitoes sprayed with the transgenic fungus, in the second were those sprayed with an unaltered or natural strain of the fungus, and in the third group
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Contact: Lee Tune
ltune@umd.edu
301-405-4679
University of Maryland
Source:Eurekalert

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