Malaria, Fungi, and a Penn State Professor
It’s not every day that a Penn State professor makes his or her way into The Economist. Dr. Andrew Read, a professor of Biology and Entomology, believes he and his colleagues have found a way to combat the spread of malaria.
Dr. Read observed that only elderly, female mosquitoes transmit the disease. Furthermore, female mosquitoes aren’t born with malaria; they acquire the disease 10 to 14 days after feeding on an infected human’s blood. Therefore, Dr. Read and others hypothesized,
“Since these females would have had plenty of time to reproduce before they died, the evolutionary pressure imposed by killing them would be much lower.”
So what substance could target only older, infected mosquitoes?
“The team are working with fungi that take 10 to 12 days to become lethal. That is short enough to kill parasite-infected insects before they become infectious, but long enough to allow them to breed.”
Who knew that fungi might prevail over a disease that kills more than one million children each year (statistic courtesy of one.org)? If only Dr. Read could use the fungi that grow in the majority of male college dorm rooms for the greater good….