Generation game: Gene-edited mosquitos to fight malaria

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Population-level changes in the genetic make-up of one of the world’s deadliest animals could provide a key in the fight against malaria, proponents of a radical new technology argue. So-called gene drive technology, where genetic changes are passed down through generations, could rein in mosquito populations, or prevent them from passing on malaria.

“Through genetic engineering, researchers have modified mosquitoes to favor the inheritance of genes that either will reduce the size of the population of those mosquitoes or stop them from transmitting the malaria parasite,” Michael Santos, senior vice-president and chief population health sciences officer at the US-based charity the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), tells SciDev.Net.

Malaria is one of the world’s “big three” deadly diseases, killing over half a million people in 2021, the vast majority in Africa. Santos tells SciDev.Net in an interview that gene drive technology could complement other tools used for controlling malaria such as seasonal malaria drugs, vaccines and rapid diagnostic tools.

“The concept of using gene drive (technology) to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases is over 80 years old, and recent advances in genetic engineering technologies, especially CRISPR-Cas9 (a technology used in editing the complete set of DNA) approaches, made it easier for researchers,” Santos explains.

By SciDev.Net

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