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

were mosquitoes not sprayed with any fungus.

The research team found that compared to the other treatments, spraying mosquitoes with the transgenic fungus significantly reduced parasite development. The malaria-causing parasite P. falciparum was found in the salivary glands of just 25 percent of the mosquitoes sprayed with the transgenic fungi, compared to 87 percent of those sprayed with the wild-type strain of the fungus and to 94 percent of those that were not sprayed. Even in the 25 percent of mosquitoes that still had parasites after being sprayed with the transgenic fungi, parasite numbers were reduced by over 95 percent compared to the mosquitoes sprayed with the wild-type fungus.

"Now that we've demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach and cleared several U.S. regulatory hurdles for transgenic Metarhizium products, our principal aim is to get this technology into field-testing in Africa as soon as possible," St. Leger said.

"We also want to test some additional combinations to make sure we have the optimized malaria-blocking pathogen," said University of Maryland post-doctoral researcher Fang, who noted that his interest in malaria research was heightened by the fact that his mother and he contracted the disease when she was pregnant with him, though both fully recovered.

Noting that the University of Maryland has pioneered the science and practice of creating transgenic fungi, St Leger said that he and colleagues at Maryland and at partnering institutions are already working to create genetically engineered fungi that can be used to reduce transmission of other illnesses, like Lyme disease and sleeping sickness. In related work, they are employing genes encoding highly specific toxins to produce hypervirulent pathogens that can control pests like locusts, bed bugs and stink bugs.

"Insects are a critical part of the natural diversity and the health of our environment, but our interactions with them aren'
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Contact: Lee Tune
ltune@umd.edu
301-405-4679
University of Maryland
Source:Eurekalert

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