Israeli students discover method to kill mosquitoes without pesticides

Mosquitoes are carriers of serious life-threatening diseases, such as Malaria and the Zika virus

Mosquito (illustrative). (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Mosquito (illustrative).
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Biologists at Ben Gurion University of the Negev discovered a new way to fend off mosquitoes by activating bacteria in the gut of the mosquito.
The discovery is significant: Mosquitoes are carriers of serious, life-threatening diseases including Malaria and the Zika virus. However, using pesticides to combat mosquitoes is risky due to its reverberating effects on other fauna and flora. Further, since mosquitoes spawn larvae in still water sources, pesticides have never been an option in combating its early life-cycle.
The solution found by biologists and Ben Gurion university (BGU) includes genetically engineering the transfer of a specific type of bacteria from male to female mosquitoes, resulting in their poisoning.
Announcement of the discovery was part of the recent iGEM Competition, an international team competition to promote synthetic biology. A BGU team called FlyGEM expanded on research originating from BGU in which the gut bacterium, known as BTI, was found. It was discovered that when the bacterium is activated, it kills only the larvae, without harming the surrounding environment or female mosquito.
The potential superiority of this method, if compared to pesticides, is rooted in its potential to deliver poison within the life-cycle of mosquito larvae. The remaining larvae that have not died due to the poison proceed to eat the dead ones, establishing a chain in which survivors also die.
BGU has already starting seeking a patent for the discovery through BGN technologies, the University’s technology-transfer company. FlyGem team leader Meital Banar noted that it is “a targeted, innovative method that could replace the current methods of global mosquito control.”