Fungus may provide hope to eradicating dengue fever in Far North
PROMISING research trials in Cairns have revealed a common fungus could help stop the spread of dengue fever.
Queensland Institute of Medical Research scientist Dr Jonathan Darbro said initial tests showed a soil fungus is lethal to the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the viral disease to humans.
In trials conducted at James Cook University’s Smithfield campus in 2010, Dr Darbro discovered the Beauveria bassiana fungus also reduced how often the mosquitoes bit humans.
Dr Darbro said the results, published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, offered a potential alternative to pesticides to control the mosquito-borne viral disease. "The results are very promising," he said. "The fungus doesn’t kill the mosquitoes as quickly as a chemical product.’’
But because it kills slowly, mosquitoes are less likely to evolve a defence against the fungus.
"They’ll still live long enough to reproduce, so natural selection isn’t pushing as hard for the mosquitoes to resist the fungus as they would for a chemical insecticide."
Dr Darbro carried out the semi-field trials in two large outdoor cages at JCU, exposing mosquitoes in one cage to the soil fungus, while those in the other were not infected.
He spent time inside each cage to test how the infected mosquitoes reacted to the fungus.
"After about three or four days, I’d see a lot less activity in the fungus-infected cage, that they weren’t biting me as much," he said.
His next challenge will be to find a way to infect mosquitoes en masse in the field.
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Promising: Scientists say a fungus could be used to stop mosquitoes transmitting dengue. Picture: Queensland Institute of Medical Research