The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) awarded its 2019 Newcomb Cleveland Prize to University of Maryland entomologists Raymond St. Leger, Brian Lovett and their seven West African collaborators.
The prestigious award is given to the authors of the most impactful paper published in AAAS’s flagship journal Science during the previous year. The winning paper is chosen based on the quality of the scholarship, innovation, presentation, and the likelihood of influencing the field and wider interdisciplinary significance.
The study, led by Lovett, St. Leger and their colleagues Abdoulaye Diabate and Etienne Bilgo from the Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé and Centre Muraz in Burkina Faso, described the first trial of a transgenic approach to combat malaria mosquitoes ever to be tested outside the laboratory. The researchers first genetically modified a naturally occurring fungal pathogen to deliver a lethal, insect-specific toxin to mosquitoes. They then tested the fungi in a screened enclosure in Burkina Faso called a “MosquitoSphere,” which was specially designed to mimic conditions of a rural village. The study showed that treatment with the engineered fungi killed roughly 75% of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes and caused an established population of mosquitoes to collapse within 45 days.
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