Fungi may be able to control mosquito population


Mosquitoes are often seen as worthless insects, whose only objective in life is to feed on our blood. Though only the females take blood meals, they are also responsible for transmitting many pathogens. Aedes aegypti in particular is responsible for spreading dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile fever, chikungunya, eastern equine encephalitis, and most recently Zika virus. There is a lot of question of whether to bring back DDT to deal with the recent Zika outbreaks, but there must be a more ecologically friendly solution. Biological control is a possibility, though that poses its own risks. While it is a timely process, it can bring a balance in an ecosystem when properly managed, but if it is not managed properly, it could potentially leave the ecosystem worse off than before. Some advantages of biological control are that it is specific to a particular pest, it has a self-sustaining system, relatively cheap after starting, and it has a somewhat high success rate. Some disadvantages are that it can fail in its specificity and disrupt other organisms, it is a slow process which is expensive at start up, and it won’t completely eradicate a pest.

Recent research shows how a species of fungi can grow in liquid suspensions, and focus their spores on the larvae of mosquitoes. The research focused on comparing the effectiveness of blastospores and conidia spores of the Metahizium brunneum fungus on killing the Aedes larvae. They found that the blastospores are able to stick to the cuticle by using a thick, durable, and water insoluble mucous secretion. The blastospores are also able to be ingested by the larvae, increasing the transmission rate. After attachment to the larvae, the spore easily penetrates the cuticle, eventually invading the larval-blood supply. The conidia spores are able to attack the larvae as well, but they do not stick to the cuticle and require protease to break down the larval defense and kill it. The blastospores are able to kill the larvae within 12-24 hours post infection. This is very interesting research, and brings up the idea of a possible biological control to help reduce the prevalence of the zoonotic pathogens. Further research will need to be done in order to properly manage the populations.

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