The scientists at Westminster University in London have been working for years on what they think will be the cure— rather, the preventative measure— taken to reduce the presence of Malaria spread by mosquitoes.
The process of genetically modifying the fungus involves inserting a human antibody against the disease into a fungus, one commonly found in various plants and soils worldwide, and the spores released by the fungus invade the mosquito’s circulatory system. The antibody inhibits the Plasmodium – the genus of the parasite that causes Malaria – from reaching the mosquito’s salivary glands and voila! No Plasmodium in the bite, no Malaria.
Lab tests have shown that mosquitoes exposed to the mutated fungus had parasite levels drop nearly 85%.
The benefits of creating the fungus override those of creating a mutant species of mosquito to combat the infected ones. However, genetically altering anything in nature is sure to have its own consequences, for instance, any organism that relies on the fungus for sustainability and could not handle the modifications could result in a decline of that particular organism and throw off the balance of an entire eco-system.
The scientists are hoping to receive funding for their project, deeming it a safer, more cost-effective way to prevent the spread of Malaria, without any severe environmentally invasive tactics or harmful chemical residue (like from DDT) as an after effect.
If all goes well, this same process could be used to fight other mosquito-spread diseases like West Nile Virus and dengue fever.
Want a more detailed explanation of how it all works? Check out the article here.