Science & Technology
Mutant mosquitoes could wipe out malaria
By T.K. Randall
February 18, 2019 · 6 comments
Could genetic modification be the key ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 JJ Harrison
Two geneticists have been working on a plan to use genetic modification to stop the disease from spreading.
Responsible for 435,000 deaths in 2017 alone, malaria - a disease that is primarily spread by infected mosquitoes - remains a major problem in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
Efforts to develop an effective vaccine have been ongoing for years, but now two researchers - Austin Burt and Andrea Crisanti - are aiming to take things one step further by releasing genetically modified mosquitoes in to the wild to render the infected female insects sterile.
The idea, which has already been in development for 15 years, is certainly drastic, however if it works it could have the potential to save hundreds of thousands of human lives each year.
"I hope to see it in my lifetime," said Crisanti. "I think the only thing that we need is to show its effectiveness in a small, isolated proof of principle example."
"And then I think everybody will want to use it."
But is using genetic modification to wipe out entire insect populations really a good idea ?
"It's a GMO (genetically modified organism) technology," said Crisanti. "It's a GMO technology that spreads. It's a GMO technology that reprograms sex."
Some groups, such as Friends of the Earth, have called for a moratorium on such techniques.
As things stand however, the method may not be ready to go for at least another 15 years.
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