A fungus – genetically enhanced to produce spider toxin – can rapidly kill huge numbers of the mosquitoes that spread malaria, a study has said.
Trials, which took place in Burkina Faso, showed mosquito populations collapsed by 99% within forty-five days.
The researchers say their aim is not to make the insects extinct but to help stop the spread of malaria.
The research teams, from the University of Maryland in the US and the IRSS research institute in Burkina Faso, first identified a fungus called Metarhizium pingshaense, which naturally infects the Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria.
The next stage was to enhance the fungus.
“They’re very malleable, you can genetically engineer them very easily,” Prof Raymond St Leger, from the University of Maryland, told the BBC.
Malaria, which is spread when female mosquitoes drink blood, kills more than 400,000 people per year.
Every year, there are about 219 million cases of malaria across the world.