UT researchers develop mosquito-killing algae

[USA] Researchers at the University of Texas are developing a natural way to stop virus-transmitting mosquitoes from breeding. They’ve biologically engineered algae to kill mosquitoes when they’re just larvae. The algae can live in ponds without harming other wildlife — but it will stop the mosquitoes carrying Zika and West Nile in their tracks.

“People who work with this usually just call it chlamy,” explains Dr. David Herrin, professor of molecular bio-sciences at UT Austin. Chlamydomonas is the green algae Herrin and two others have biologically engineered to kill mosquito larvae.

“The larval stage is really where you want to control them before they transmit disease,” Herrin says.

Herrin, Seongjoon Kang and Obed Odom have spent years on the project. They’re targeting the mosquito species that transmit Zika and West Nile.

“It’s about the only toxin that mosquitoes can’t develop resistance to,” Herrin says. The active ingredient is harmless to humans and wildlife.

“It’s safe for using in drinking water,” he explains.

The algae has the same ingredients as the bricks pest control companies use to fight mosquito populations in standing water, but it’s a living organism — so it lasts longer and can reproduce. Ideally people could add the algae to ponds, or standing water in the spring and it would last through one mosquito season.

“You could even grow them in your own fountain or tub in your own backyard,” Herrin says. He hopes his team can get enough support to get the algae on the market in 2-3 years.

“Maybe like in little vials that you could put into fountains, ditches … wherever you have standing water,” he says. Herrin explains, the algae could eventually be added to standing water by helicopters or planes. In your own backyard, you could simply use a spray bottle.

 

Photo: Researchers at the University of Texas have biologically engineered algae to kill mosquitoes when they’re just larvae. (KEYE TV)

View original article at: UT researchers develop mosquito-killing algae

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