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Genetically modified mosquitos could eliminate malaria, if we’re willing to take risk

| | June 12, 2018
CRISPR opener
Image credit: MICHAEL MORGENSTERN
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

[Kevin] Esvelt is a biologist at MIT and the first person to formulate a technology known as a CRISPR gene drive, a gene editing application that represents humanity’s single best chance to eradicate malaria.

[T]he idea is to change the three species of mosquito most responsible for its transmission — Anopheles gambiae, Anopheles coluzzii, and Anopheles arabiensis — so that all their offspring would be male, effectively leading to the species’ extinction. Or you could just add a gene making them resistant to the malaria parasite, preventing its transmission to humans.

That might sound disturbing from an ecological perspective, but mosquitoes don’t make up a significant portion of any known predator’s diet; there’s just not a lot of meat there. “So far there’s no evidence really that seems to show that Anopheles gambiae is a key species in the ecosystem,” [says researcher] Jonathan Kayondo.

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Is it sometimes necessary, even morally required, to release into the wild a technology that’s never been tested in the wild, because the cost of not doing so is just too high?

Recall that between 438,000 and 720,000 people die of malaria every year. So starting from the moment we have deployable gene drive technologies that could wipe out the disease, every day we wait kills between 1,200 and 2,000 people.

Read full, original post: A genetically modified organism could end malaria and save millions of lives — if we decide to use it

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