BBC article on a transgenic fungus designed to kill mosquitoes that can carry malaria is an accurate depiction of the original study
James Gallagher, a health and science correspondent with the BBC, details a study surrounding genetically engineered Metarhizium pingshaense fungi and their ability to quell mosquito populations. The trial took place in Burkina Faso – a small, landlocked West African country – over several weeks, and was administered by researchers at the University of Maryland and the local IRSS research institute.
The experiment took place in a mock village wherein the mosquito populations were contained. Black sheets covered in fungal spores attracted mosquitoes and infected them with a spider toxin produced by the genetically engineered mutant fungi. According to the article, the spider-toxin fungus reduced the population from 1,500 mosquitoes to 13 after 45 days. Gallagher cites that the fungus was specifically lethal to mosquitoes and ignored other insects.
Over the course of the article, many links to the broader impact of the study are drawn. The new strategy of mosquito quelling is meant to help defeat malaria in some of the most vulnerable regions of Africa. Genetic modification-based strategies like this are on the forefront of new tech for the control of malaria.
The article is concise, well written, and void of conflicting interests or bias. The BBC is an extremely popular news source, and it directly links the journal Science (where the article is published), one of the most credible repositories for scientific research. The article is from a reputable news source and the study is published in a credible journal.
The content of the article correctly summarizes many key points from the study. The title, however, and subsequent further mention of the fungus “rapidly killing 99% of malaria mosquitoes,” is somewhat overstated. The study does indicate that the toxin-producing hybrid caused a population collapse in 45 days, but this was over multiple generations, and the suggestion that “99% of mosquitoes were rapidly killed” is not concisely supported by the research article. All things considered, however, the general message – that the GM fungus caused rapid collapse – is correct.
The article contains relatively little jargon that would be inaccessible to the general public. Supporting quotes from reputable sources are provided to assist with presentation and the paper itself is easily found following links provided on the news article.
The news story by James Gallagher, who is the BBC’s health and science correspondent, provides a brief account of a 2019 Science paper titled “Transgenic Metarhizium rapidly kills mosquitoes in a malaria-endemic region of Burkina Faso”. The news story focuses on the finding that, during a field experiment, genetically-engineered hypervirulent fungus was able to efficiently infect and collapse a population of mosquitoes, that are known to spread malaria. Overall, this news story presents an accurate description of the main finding of the primary research paper and further discuses this finding by providing background information on the of malaria and relevant opinions of experts in the field.
The news story comes from a credible news organization and does not contain explicit biases, logical fallacies and unwarranted opinions from the author. Although this news story is accurate, it leaves out some secondary details and findings of the paper, which nevertheless could have been interesting to the reader. These include a description of how the GM fungus strain was created, the finding that mosquitoes infected with the fungus displayed earlier oviposition, and an observation that the viability of the fungus on treated surfaces is crucial to its virulence and thus to the efficacy of this strategy as a whole.
The views expressed by the reviewers for this article are not endorsed or shared by SciFeye. The interpretation of the review of the news story using the SciFeye Index was done independently by two SciFeye reviewers. We encourage you to conduct your own evaluation of the accuracy and quality of the news story using the Index.