Genetically modified mosquitoes are cared for in a research laboratory of the Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé in Burkina Faso.
Photo: Target Malaria/Imperial College

28.09.2018

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The government of Burkina Faso has granted permission to release genetically engineered mosquitoes anytime, researchers announced in September 2018. It’s a key step in the broader efforts to use bioengineering to eliminate malaria in the region.

The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes, which scientists from Burkina Faso, Mali and Uganda are hoping to execute soon, will be the first time that any genetically engineered animal is released into the wild in Africa. While these particular mosquitoes won’t have any mutations related to malaria transmission, researchers are hoping their release, and the work that led up to it, will help improve the perception of the research and trust in the science among regulators and locals alike. It will also inform future releases.
 
Teams in three African countries — Burkina Faso, Mali, and Uganda — are building the groundwork to eventually let loose “gene drive” mosquitoes, which would contain a mutation that would significantly and quickly reduce the mosquito population. Genetically engineered mosquitoes have already been released in places like Brazil and the Cayman Islands, though animals with gene drives have never been released in the wild. 

Villagers must give consent for release

In Africa, the project’s success depends on more than just the science of genetic engineering, the scientists note.

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