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The Funnel Web Spider…  

Funnel Web with mites

Called upon to combat Malaria.

US scientists have combined the toxin from the Blue Mountains funnel web species spider with an insect-killing fungus to battle malaria-carrying mosquitoes; this is referred to as a ‘transgenic remedy’.

In a first-ever trial, 99 per cent of a mosquito population was wiped out in an enclosed, simulated village setting in West Africa.

This is a massive breakthrough in combatting malaria.

There are more than 200 million cases of malaria a year, according to the World Health Organisation and four hundred thousand people die annually from the disease.

For many years insecticides have failed to control mosquitoes that carry malaria, only making things worse, with insecticide resistance developing among many mosquito strains.

So scientists have turned to transgenics; building a hybrid organism.

The scientists have used a strain of the fungus that is specific to mosquitoes and engineered it to produce a toxin that kills mosquitoes quicker than they can breed.

The toxin was a pre-existing insecticide derived from the venom of the Australian Blue Mountains funnel web spider, and has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use on crops to control agricultural insect pests.

The next step is to assimilate the experiment in a local village or community.

There are a number of regulatory and social benchmarks to adhere to before employing this new method in an open environment, but the researchers believe this study helps make a case for trials such as these.

Image by FLICKR

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