Science Questions

Would the fungus-based anti-flea drug also kill mosquitoes?

Sun, 12th Jul 2009

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Matt, South Africa asked:

In your recent show, you discussed research into a synthesized neurotoxin based on compounds released by a fungus used to combat fleas and ticks on pets.


One of the characteristics of the toxin mentioned was that it affected all insects, but had absolutely no effect on pets or humans. In this case, wouldn't it be an ideal way to help bring down mosquito and other human pest populations as well?


Chris -   Indeed, this was the nodulisporium fungus which is an environmental fungus but it produces nodulisporic acid which the paper we reported on last week is scientists making a version of that called nodulisporamide which targets an ion channel which is only present in insects.  Itís not present in people and itís therefore neurotoxic to insects but because we donít have their ion channel, itís harmless to us.  I suppose itís possible that we could do the same thing for other flying insects.  The problem is of course, youíd have to dose enormous numbers of people.  If youíre going to dose enormous numbers of people or something, you might as well give them an anti-malaria drug in the first place.  So, I guess that thatís one of the criticisms.  Isnít it?  That if youíre going to do something like that, well, might as well treat the disease thatís mostly the problem, but itís a good idea and it may be that thatís one way to tackle this.

Ben -   Thatís very true.  If we already had the facility to dose that many people with any medication then, yes, weíd be using anti-malarials, wouldnít we?


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