News / Health

Genetically-Modified Fungus Kills Malaria Parasite

New strategy may have advantages over pesticides

Scientists are developing a fungus that would kill the malaria parasite carried by mosquitoes.
Scientists are developing a fungus that would kill the malaria parasite carried by mosquitoes.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Art Chimes

University of Maryland scientists are working on a genetically-engineered fungus that would kill the malaria parasite.

The battle against malaria continues to challenge doctors, scientists, and public health officials. Now, a team of British and American scientists have developed a novel and promising approach to malaria control.

Malaria kills about a million victims a year, mostly children in Africa, and almost half the world's population is at risk.

The malaria parasite is carried from victim to victim by mosquitoes, which are increasingly developing resistance to the insecticides used to kill them.

As an alternative to chemicals, University of Maryland professor Raymond St. Leger and his colleagues have been working on a genetically-engineered fungus to control malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

One possibility they considered was using the fungus to kill the mosquito, the way insecticides do.

"The problem with that is, if the mosquitoes have evolved resistance against chemical insecticides, they could also evolve resistance against the pathogen," St. Leger explained. "So we did something different. We took genes which encode anti-malarial, anti-parasite proteins - so we put those into the fungus."

The result is a fungus that kills the parasite directly. And, the genetic modification of the fungus could be adjusted to counter resistance in the malaria parasite as it evolves.

St. Leger says the anti-malaria fungus could be used just like chemical insecticides.

"So you could apply it on cotton sheets hanging inside houses which the mosquitoes would light on - netting, bed netting, on walls, baited traps or as sprays. That's how it could be applied, just [as] you would apply a chemical insecticide," he says.

It may be a couple of years before this modified fungus is approved for use. But it wouldn't be the first fungus-based product on the market. A similar modified fungus is already in use against locusts in Africa, Australia and China, and at a cost comparable to chemical insecticides.

And St. Leger says that using genetically-modified fungi to control disease may be a very promising field, for example, in a disease carried by ticks.

"We can put a gene for an antibody there which will knock out lyme disease. We're working with another strain which attacks the parasites in tsetse fly. Dengue virus is also susceptible to a particular gene we're working with. So we can actually manipulate and model these pathogens to produce specific pathogens targeted to different insects."

You May Like

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid