Genetic engineering test with mosquitoes ‘may be game changer’ in eliminating malaria

L. Geddes,  The Guardian,  2021.

Scientists have successfully wiped out a population of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes by using a radical form of genetic engineering to render the females infertile – in the most advanced and largest ever test of use of the technology to fight the disease. As well as bringing fresh hope in the fight against one of the world’s biggest killers, the study lays the foundations for further trials of gene-drive technology, which could mean self-destroying mosquitoes being released into the wild within 10 years. “This is a very exciting development,” said Dr Thomas Price, a senior lecturer in evolution, ecology and behaviour at the University of Liverpool, who was not involved in the research. “There are still lots of ethical and regulatory questions that need answering. But none of those really matter if it is impossible to build gene drives that are effective in the field. This is a major step towards achieving that.” Despite the reduction in malaria over recent decades there were still 229m cases of the disease in 2019, and 409,000 deaths. Dr Drew Hammond, at Imperial College London, who led the new research, said: “Gene drive is a self sustaining and fast acting technology that can work alongside existing tools such as bed nets, insecticides and vaccines, and could be a game changer in bringing about malaria elimination.”

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