Evaluation of genetically modified mosquitoes for the control of vector-borne diseases

Global Malaria Programme,  WHO - Position Statement,  2020.

Vector-borne diseases (VBDs) cause more than 700 000 deaths annually and are responsible for 17% of the global burden of communicable diseases. Significant progress was made in the control of malaria until 2015, but progress has stalled in recent years. WHO recognizes the urgent need for development and testing of new tools to combat VBDs and supports investigation of all new potential control technologies, including genetically modified mosquitoes (GMMs).

In the spirit of fostering innovation, WHO takes the position that all potentially beneficial new technologies, including GMMs, should be investigated to determine whether they could be useful in the continued fight against diseases of public health concern. Such research should be conducted in steps and be supported by clear governance mechanisms to evaluate the health, environmental and ecological implications

This WHO statement was prepared in response to enquiries from Member States and their implementing partners about the Organization’s position on both research on and deployment of GMMs to reduce or prevent transmission of VBDs. Significant progress has been made in genetic modification of mosquito vectors to introduce physiological changes designed to either suppress local mosquito populations or to reduce their susceptibility to infection and their ability to transmit disease-causing pathogens. Scientists are now beginning to conduct research in endemic countries to explore the feasibility of deploying GMM approaches. These advances have led to an often-polarized debate on the benefits and risks of GMMs, in which the purpose of evaluating this new technology sometimes appears to be forgotten. In accordance with its mandate to provide guidance to Member States on matters concerning public health, WHO has therefore framed its position in this context and provides its views on the evaluation of GMMs as a potential tool in the fight against VBDs. This position statement is designed to support decision-making in Member States, although further support from WHO and other partners may be necessary in some countries, depending on developments in GMMs. Member States and their implementing partners are encouraged to contact WHO at geneticallymodifiedmosquitoes@who.int to pose any additional questions. On the basis of such feedback, WHO will post a question-and-answer document and may modify this position statement to provide additional clarity if necessary.


 

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