Burkina Faso: Gene Drives Could Halt Malaria — If Residents Agree to It

Burkina Faso: Gene Drives Could Halt Malaria — If Residents Agree to It
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Genetically engineered mosquitoes could ease the burden of malaria — but first scientists have to ensure that people understand and accept the technology. In a small village in West Africa, scientists are preparing to release the modified mosquitoes to help eradicate mosquito populations responsible for the disease's spread. 

From STAT News:

These scientists are planning to release mosquitoes equipped with “gene drives,” a technology that overrides nature's genetic rules to give every baby mosquito a certain trait that normally only half would acquire. Once such an insect gets out into the wild, it will move indiscriminately and spread its modified trait without respect for political borders.

No living thing — no mammal, insect, or plant — with a gene drive has ever been set free. But if all goes as planned, it might happen here, in a remote village of about a thousand people, where the residents don't even have a word for “gene.”

Despite such barriers, this is in some ways the most logical place to carry out the experiment. Nowhere does malaria exact a higher toll than here in sub-Saharan Africa, where hundreds of thousands die from the disease every year. And Burkina Faso already houses one of Africa's highest-profile malaria research laboratories.

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