Who decides whether to use gene drives against malaria-carrying mosquitoes?

T. H. Saey,  ScienceNews,  2022.

The gene drive interferes with the insects’ ability to reproduce. It wiped out captive populations of mosquitoes in eight to 12 generations (SN: 10/27/18, p. 6) in a small lab study. In 2021, the technology worked in the large cages in Terni, Italy, too. Within as little as five to 10 years, this gene drive could be ready to test in the wild. The first experimental release could be rolled out in Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana or Uganda. In those locations, researchers are working with a nonprofit research consortium called Target Malaria to develop the gene drive carriers along with other genetically engineered mosquitoes to fight malaria. This research is driven by the idea that every tool available must be used to fight malaria, which sickened close to 241 million people in 2020 and killed 670,000 worldwide, mostly in Africa. Children 5 years old and younger accounted for about 80 percent of the continent’s malaria deaths, the World Health Organization says. Because of malaria’s huge toll, large investments have been made to fight the disease, yielding preventive drugs, insecticide-treated bed nets and even malaria vaccines — one was recently recommended for use in sub-Saharan Africa (SN: 12/18/21 & 1/1/22, p. 32). These efforts are helping. But mosquitoes are developing resistance to insecticides, and some anti-malaria drugs may no longer work well.

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