A fungus genetically engineered to produce spider venom can quickly kill mosquitoes spreading malaria, a study suggests.
Scientists from the University of Maryland and Burkina Faso applied the pathogen to a sheet, which was hung up in a mock-up village.
The approach was successful in reducing mosquito populations by more than 99%, according to the study published in the journal Science.
“This paper marks a big step and sets a precedent for this and other transgenic methods to move forward.”
The researchers engineered the naturally-occurring fungus to deliver a toxin to mosquitoes.
The toxin, an insecticide called Hybrid, comes from the venom of the Australian Blue Mountains funnel-web spider.
The fungus was then tested in a simulated village setting in Burkina Faso, in West Africa – a structure called the MosquitoSphere – which included plants, huts, small pools of water and a food source for mosquitoes.
Mr Lovett said: “Simply applying the transgenic fungus to a sheet that we hung on a wall in our study area caused the mosquito populations to crash within 45 days.
“And it is as effective at killing insecticide-resistant mosquitoes as non-resistant ones.”
The fungus was found to be safe for other insects and honeybees.
More than 400,000 people die from malaria every year, according to the World Health Organisation.