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Cate Swannell
Med J Aust 2016; 205 (3): 102. || doi: 10.5694/mja16.n0108
Published online: 1 August 2016

Fungus v Aedes aegypti: battle on

Scientists looking to combat the Zika virus are trying to “weaponise” a fungus called Metarhizium brunneum which has the happy knack of being able to eat mosquito larvae from the inside out, Wired reports. Research published in PLOS Pathogens has shown that the fungus spore sticks to the mosquito larva, then “eats its way through the exoskeleton and starts to grow, fast”. The larva itself helps the process by eating more spores, which work their way through its gut and into its body cavity. The fungus grows, destroying the larva from the inside. “The fungus actually attacks mosquitoes in two ways. One variety of the fungus spore, the conidium, is airborne — it attacks adult mosquitoes. The blastospore, though, does better underwater — that’s the one that attacks the larvae … [and] is so much more virulent than the conidium. Mosquitoes are now developing resistance to pesticides, but it’s harder to resist predators and parasites that are evolving right along with them. Metarhizium brunneum could be a crucial part of the arsenal [against Zika] — as long as it doesn’t spread so widely that it starts killing more than mosquitoes.”

Aussie heads WHO’s Health Emergencies program

Dr Peter Salama, a medical epidemiologist and a University of Melbourne and Harvard University alumnus, has been appointed as the Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new Health Emergencies Program. Dr Salama, 47, has spent the last 18 months as the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa and Global Emergency Coordinator for the crises in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Before that was UNICEF’s Country Representative in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, as Global Coordinator for Ebola, and as Chief of Global Health. He previously worked at the Centers for Disease Control in the US and with Medecins Sans Frontieres. According to a statement from the WHO: “WHO’s new Health Emergencies Program is designed to deliver rapid, predictable and comprehensive support to countries and communities as they prepare for, face or recover from emergencies caused by any type of hazard to human health, whether disease outbreaks, natural or man-made disasters or conflicts. The development of the new Program is the result of a reform effort, based on recommendations from a range of independent and expert external reports, involving all levels of WHO — country offices, regional offices and headquarters.

  • Cate Swannell


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