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Fungus Could Save Millions of Deaths From Malaria

Scientists in the U.K., Netherlands, Switzerland and Tanzania have discovered natural weapons against malaria that don't require taking a pill or create environmental problems: Two species of fungi.

UK researchers sprayed oil containing the Beauveria bassiana fungus into pots before placing malaria-carrying mosquitoes in them for some six hours (the same period of time it takes for bugs to digest food before moving to lay their eggs). More than 90 percent of the bugs died within two weeks -- about the time it takes for the active malaria virus to move from its abdomen to its saliva for transmission to a human. Those flies left standing were a bit woosy, as they bit less, flew poorly and developed the malaria parasite more slowly than others.

I bet scientists must have felt confident about their chances with the Beauveria bassiana: The fungus had already been approved by Western environmental agencies for aphids and whiteflies on melon and tomato crops.

In the other study, researchers from Europe and Tanzania found cotton sheets covered with the Metarhizium anisopliae fungus for three weeks prompted the spread of an infection in 23 percent of the mosquitoes caught in huts that killed them in almost four days versus nine days for untreated sheets. Because mosquitoes bite humans multiple times before their short lifespan ends, scientists calculated this second fungus eliminated the spread of malaria by a whopping 75 percent.

Both fungi are certainly far better and safer alternatives to stop the spread of malaria than lariam, linked to serious mental problems and suicide.

BBC News June 9, 2005

Wilmington Star-News June 10, 2005

New York Times June 10, 2005 Registration Required

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