Could Crispr Flip the Switch on Insects’ Resistance to Pesticides?

E. Mullin,  WIRED,  2022.

WHILE THE COVID-19 pandemic raged across the world in 2020, another disease was quietly infecting more than 220 million people on the continent of Africa: malaria. That year, the disease led to more than 600,000 deaths, most of them children. Caused by the parasite Plasmodium, the illness is spread through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying have long been some of the most effective strategies for combating the disease. But decades of using these chemicals has lessened their potency. It happens like this: Insecticides kill off most of the mosquitoes in an area. But a small number may survive because something about their genetic makeup makes them unaffected by the pesticide. Mosquitoes within that small population mate with each other and pass on their genes to their offspring, breeding more resistant mosquitoes. In some cases, resistance has built up just a few years after the introduction of an insecticide. It makes fighting deadly mosquitoes a constant game of whack-a-mole. Insecticides remain the frontline in fighting malaria, because interventions like building mosquito-resistant housing are still experimental, and the effort to develop a vaccine has taken decades. Last summer the World Health Organization recommended Mosquirix, the first anti-parasitic vaccine, for African children under age 5, but it is only 30 percent effective at preventing serious disease, and will take many years to achieve approval and distribution among individual nations.

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