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A new weapon in the war against malaria-carrying mosquitoes has arrived just in time for summer.

Researchers from the University of Maryland and the Research Institute of Health Sciences in Burkina Faso have figured out a way to genetically alter a fungus to produce deadly spider venom that kills mosquitoes dead. The fungus, known as Metarhizium pinghaense, which is already deadly to mosquitoes even without the added venom, works so well that in one trial it nearly killed off an entire population of the pest in 45 days.

“We are using a gene encoding a single toxin, one of the many toxins in spider venom,” Dr. Raymond St. Leger of UMD Entomology told Fox News. “The toxin has been thoroughly characterized by our Australian collaborator Glenn King and approved for use as an insecticide by the EPA, so this toxin has been confirmed to be safe for everything but insects.”

The spider venom used to kill the disease-ridden bloodsuckers is the same kind produced by the Australian Blue Mountains funnel-web spider, one of the most dangerous arachnids in existence.

The fungus has been genetically engineered to produce the toxin and, according to Dr. Leger, it works like a contact insecticide due to its ability to penetrate the skin of the insect. Leger and his team tested the fungus in West Africa, in a screen-enclosed mock village known as a “MosquitoSphere.”

“We apply the fungal spores to a cotton sheet hung up in our huts, a mosquito touching the sheet picks up the same spores; these germinate on the skin and send down tubes (technically called hyphae) that penetrate into the blood of the mosquito,” Leger explained. “We have engineered the fungus to make a toxin, but in such a way that the toxin is only made when the fungus is in the blood of the mosquito.”

The hyphae, acting as the “spider fangs,” deposits the toxin in the blood which then kills the mosquito rapidly. Leger and his team are currently exploring ways to make the fungus cheap and easily available.
 

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Valorous Tone

New Member
See, this sounds like a good idea. at first.
But then the law of unintended consequences kicks in, life finds a way, yadadada and in 10 years we have mosquito populations that spiders no longer can control. Then spider mosquitos like in that SyFy movie.

I'm just saying making a spider venom toxin producing fungus, especially in Australia feels like a super bad idea. in the end.
 

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Shimazu

Member
Looking forward to the day that we realize mosquitoes play some kind of obscure vital role in nature. That will, of course, be the exact same day that all the mosquitoes are dead.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go practice my melodramatic B-movie scientist "WHAT HAS SCIENCE DONE??!" impression.
 

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ChaosKitty

Queen Bitch From Hell
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Old Man Metal

Trusted Member
Staff member
See, this sounds like a good idea. at first.
But then the law of unintended consequences kicks in, life finds a way, yadadada and in 10 years we have mosquito populations that spiders no longer can control. Then spider mosquitos like in that SyFy movie.

I'm just saying making a spider venom toxin producing fungus, especially in Australia feels like a super bad idea. in the end.
The Law of Unintended Consequences is ruthless, and best not trifled with.
 

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Craygor

Norse American
Bold Member!
Great, even more people on my already crowded planet. Mosquitoes kill more people than anything else, including other people. Now we are taking that population check out of circulation. If we do this let's release a toxin that makes 90% of the human population sterile, maybe based on the person's IQ.
 

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Ramona the brave

Active Member
See, this sounds like a good idea. at first.
But then the law of unintended consequences kicks in, life finds a way, yadadada and in 10 years we have mosquito populations that spiders no longer can control. Then spider mosquitos like in that SyFy movie.

I'm just saying making a spider venom toxin producing fungus, especially in Australia feels like a super bad idea. in the end.
Yeah... And then mosquito predators start dying off and then somewhere up on the food chain shit goes down terribly... Kind of like how a drought out west can indirectly lead to a rash of mountain lion related deaths 2 years later...
 

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