Fungus kills mosquitoes
This is pretty exciting:
In a finding that may open promising new ways to attack malaria, scientists are reporting today that two fungi that are harmless to humans and the environment can be used to kill mosquitoes.The fungus wouldn't be sprayed indiscriminately, but rather on bednets and indoor walls. This works because, in Africa at least, mosquitoes typically bite people inside while they're sleeping, and they have to rest for at least 6 hours indoors after a blood meal before they go outside to lay eggs - so while they're resting, they get exposed to this toxic fungus and get weakened, and eventually die after a couple weeks. So even if this fungus turns out to have some unexpected bad effects (which I'm sure it will), they will be limited by the limited spraying. (No vast spraying of farms with DDT here!)
The fungi are already licensed in Western countries to control aphids, termites and other pests, according to two studies in the journal Science. One of the researchers, Dr. Matt B. Thomas, a biologist at Imperial College in London, estimated that a "deliverable product" could be ready in three to five years, if he could get money for further research.
Malaria kills more than one million people a year, mostly children under 5 and pregnant women, especially in Africa. Despite the advent of new drugs and better mosquito nets, some specialists say deaths may be increasing, largely because of bureaucratic delays among donors and breakdowns in African public health systems.
Moreover, mosquitoes eventually develop resistance to every chemical pesticide used on them, including DDT. No resistance to fatal fungi has been reported among agricultural pests, Dr. Thomas said.
And even if there were some toxic effects on either humans or some ecologically important insect - I think that price is worth paying (to a certain extent, of course, but a significantly non-zero extent) if we can significantly reduce the burden of malaria. Remember, it's not just that poverty causes disease - it's also that disease causes poverty.