Have potential harms caused by possible use of gene drive-modified mosquitoes to control malaria in Africa been considered?
Yes. Several studies have been conducted to identify the potential harms to recognized protection goals that people are most concerned about. For a self-sustaining gene drive technology that might be used to control malaria in Africa, these studies have identified the potential for harm to human and animal health, biodiversity, and water quality as the uppermost concerns.
In theorizing about possible pathways to these harms, questions about stability of the trait over subsequent generations and predictability of the effects, for example including potential effect on organisms other than the target mosquito population, have been raised. Other technical issues include possible development of resistance over time on the part of either the mosquito or the pathogen, and the loss of immunity by people in treated areas over time, although these same concerns also are pertinent for other malaria control tools (drugs and insecticides). WHO has recommended that risk analysis must be performed on a case-by-case basis for each specific version of gene drive-modified mosquitoes to be used under particular conditions to help stakeholders understand and make a decision on whether to move forward with testing or implementation.
For more information (Also see FAQs on How to manage risks):