Biotech Updates

Fungal Insecticides with Increased Efficacy

November 16, 2007

Biocontrol agents from insecticidal fungi can provide attractive alternatives to chemical insecticides. The uses of these agents, however, are hindered by their poor efficacy and costly preparation. Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Science and the University of Maryland have developed a potent agent that may open the way for effective biocontrol of a wide range of insects - scorpion neurotoxin expressing-insecticidal fungi.

By introducing the gene coding for the neurotoxin AaIT from the fat-tailed scorpion, the scientists obtained Metarhizium anisopliae with 22-fold increased toxicity to tobacco hornworms and yellow fever mosquitoes. M. anisopliae is a fungus that causes disease in over 200 insect species by acting as a parasite. It is non-pathogenic to humans and other animals. New mass production technology makes pricing of M. anisopliae production competitive with chemical synthesis. The next step will be to develop host-specific strains, based on the hypervirulent AaIT strain, and incorporate measures to avoid environmental contamination.

Subscribers to Nature Bioechnology can read the full paper at . Non subscribers can read the abstract at