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A green alternative for adult malaria mosquito control: How long to go?

November 23, 2010 - 14:32 -- Bart G.J. Knols

It was announced yesterday that the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC) will receive another 50 million USD to develop new public health insecticides. By 2020 it hopes to add three new active ingredients to the public health pesticide toolbox. That will then be a total of 100 million dollars for 3 new active ingredients. Finding new insecticides and bringing these to the market is an expensive business...
And of course, extensive use of chemical insecticides in mosquito control has caused a rapid spread of insecticide-resistance, which is threatening the effectiveness of current malaria interventions. Pretty obvious then that you start the search for new insecticides, so it seems.

Also yesterday, I received the PhD thesis of Dutch medical entomologist Marit Farenhorst. And this got me thinking...

Ms. Farenhorst's thesis, which will be defended in public on 13 December at Wageningen University in The Netherlands indicates convincingly that the mosquito-killing fungi Metarhizium anisopliae and Beauveria bassiana offer a biological control alternative to chemical insecticides.

Her research focused on developing methods for practical and integrated use of fungi in tropical field conditions and investigated if fungi could be an effective tool against insecticide-resistant malaria mosquitoes. It was shown that resting mosquitoes could be effectively targeted with fungi applied with various delivery methods. Fungus spores were effective on netting materials, which could be used for house screening.

Fungi were shown to be highly effective against insecticide-resistant malaria mosquitoes and to make them more susceptible again to chemical insecticides. When applied in combination, fungi and insecticides enhanced each others’ efficacy. These results show that chemical and biological control can complement each other and that fungi could be successfully integrated in existing malaria interventions.

So not only do fungi provide a 'green' alternative to chemical insecticides, they can also work in harmony with these. Moreover, if new active ingredients are found, then one way to avoid resistance kicking in quickly when used on a large scale, is to combine these with fungi.

That, in my humble opinion, is what innovative control is all about. Bringing one of these fungi to the field of malaria vector control will require a fraction of the costs involved in bringing a new insecticide to the market.

Ms. Farenhorst's thesis therefore provides low-hanging fruit, and it is hoped that this work will be picked up by the IVCC and jointly valorised to the stage where the real world starts to benefit from it. Ten more years to bring three insecticides to the market. My guess is that three years will suffice to do the job for fungi...

Attached below is the abstract and summarising chapter of Ms. Farenhorst's thesis. If you are interested in receiving a full copy (as pdf), then please send an email to

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