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Lab-engineered organism fights malaria

Fungus attacks not just mosquitoes, but parasites inside them

5:48pm, February 25, 2011

Malaria’s new worst enemy may be a fungus.

A fungus? Try stealth assassin. Strains of a common fungus engineered by a U.S.-British team can eliminate more than 90 percent of malaria parasites deep within the insects that carry them, the team reports February 25 in Science.

Malaria is caused by several species of single-celled organisms known as protozoans. But the disease is really an insect’s game. Mosquitoes are malaria’s taxi service, shuttling pathogens from person to person and town to town. Good malaria control, then, is about good insect control, says Andrew Read, an evolutionary biologist at Penn State University in University Park, Pa.

The flow of pesticides to malaria-prone regions like Africa and Asia, however, has put mosquitoes under big pressure to evolve resistance to insect-killing chemicals. “These things work until the mosquito becomes resistant, and then you’re in trouble,” says Read, who was not

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