The race against time to defeat mosquito-borne diseases

Michael Peel,  Financial Times,  2024.

Deep in the bowels of Imperial College London’s main campus is a facility known as the insectary. The journey to it, via basement corridors and an entrance that sounds an alarm upon opening, feels like something out of a horror film. Beyond two sets of double doors lies the reason for the security: thousands of the Anopheles mosquito that has long been humanity’s deadliest animal threat. The insects in these temperature-controlled chambers are central to pioneering efforts to use genetic engineering to stop them passing on life-threatening malaria.

Federica Bernardini, a research associate, places a hand close to the white mesh sides of a box housing the biting bugs. “I am not going to put it there for long,” Bernardini says, quickly pulling back from the tiny creatures. The Imperial work is part of a global struggle against the intensifying threat of mosquitoes and the destructive pathogens they carry. The first malaria vaccination campaign is being rolled out this year, while researchers are exploring ways to stem disease that are both ingenious and — in the case of genetic engineering — controversial to some.

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