Entomopathogenic fungi such as Beauveria bassiana are currently considered as a potential control agent for malaria mosquitoes. The success of such strategies depends among others on the efficacy of the fungus to kill its hosts. As B. bassiana can use various resources for growth and reproduction, increasing the dependency on mosquitoes as a nutritional source may be instrumental for reaching this goal. Passage of entomopathogenic fungi through an insect host has been shown to increase its virulence. We evaluated the virulence, fungal outgrowth, mycelial growth rate, and sporulation rate of two B. bassiana isolates (Bb1520 and Bb8028) that underwent 10 consecutive selection cycles through malaria mosquitoes (Anopheles coluzzii) using an experimental evolution approach. This cycling resulted in an altered capacity of evolved B. Bassiana lineages to grow on different substrates while maintaining the ability to kill insects. Notably, however, there were no significant changes in virulence or speed of outgrowth when comparing the evolved lineages against their unevolved ancestors. These results suggest that fungal growth and sporulation evolved through successive and exclusive use of an insect host as a nutritional resource. We discuss the results in light of biocontrol and provide suggestions to increase fungal virulence.
Data from: Experimental evolution to increase the efficacy of the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana against malaria mosquitoes: effects on mycelial growth and virulence