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PLOS ONE  2013 

Malaria Mosquitoes Attracted by Fatal Fungus

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062632

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Abstract:

Insect-killing fungi such as Beauveria bassiana are being evaluated as possible active ingredients for use in novel biopesticides against mosquito vectors that transmit malaria. Fungal pathogens infect through contact and so applications of spores to surfaces such as walls, nets, or other resting sites provide possible routes to infect mosquitoes in and around domestic dwellings. However, some insects can detect and actively avoid fungal spores to reduce infection risk. If true for mosquitoes, such behavior could render the biopesticide approach ineffective. Here we find that the spores of B. bassiana are highly attractive to females of Anopheles stephensi, a major anopheline mosquito vector of human malaria in Asia. We further find that An. stephensi females are preferentially attracted to dead and dying caterpillars infected with B. bassiana, landing on them and subsequently becoming infected with the fungus. Females are also preferentially attracted to cloth sprayed with oil-formulated B. bassiana spores, with 95% of the attracted females becoming infected after a one-minute visit on the cloth. This is the first report of an insect being attracted to a lethal fungal pathogen. The exact mechanisms involved in this behavior remain unclear. Nonetheless, our results indicate that biopesticidal formulations comprising B. bassiana spores will be conducive to attraction and on-source visitation by malaria vectors.

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