Can we eradicate malaria with promising new gene drive technique?

| | September 25, 2018
malaria
Malaria patient in East Africa. Image credit: Adriane Ohanesia/Reuters
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Malaria is among the world’s worst scourges. In 2016 the disease, which is caused by a parasite and transmitted by mosquitoes, infected 194 million people in Africa and caused 445,000 deaths.

But biologists now have developed a way of manipulating mosquito genetics that forces whole populations of the insect to self-destruct. The technique has proved so successful in laboratory tests that its authors envisage malaria could be eliminated from large regions of Africa within two decades.

A team led by Andrea Crisanti, a biologist at Imperial College, London, altered a gene that disrupts the mosquito’s sexual development; the females become infertile but the males remain able to spread the debilitating gene to an ever-dwindling number of progeny. Dr. Crisanti found that laboratory populations of mosquitoes can be driven to extinction within 11 generations, he and colleagues report in Monday’s issue of Nature Biotechnology. Wild populations could be made to crash in about four years, according to computer models.

Related article:  Why can your DNA vary from cell to cell? Mosaicism is a ‘hidden mix of mutations’

…Genes carried by a gene drive therefore can spread very rapidly through a population, which makes the technique both powerful and potentially dangerous. No gene drive has yet been released in the wild.

Launching a gene drive into the wild is risky. Once released, it can’t be recalled or easily disabled should anything go awry. In 2016, the National Academy of Sciences called for extensive tests and public consultation before any gene drive is released.

Read full, original post: Giving Malaria a Deadline

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
a a b b a f ac a

Video: Death by COVID: The projected grim toll in historical context

The latest statistics, as of July 10, show COVID-19-related deaths in U.S. are just under 1,000 per day nationally, which is ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
types of oak trees

Infographic: Power of evolution? How oak trees came to dominate North American forests

Over the course of some 56 million years, oaks, which all belong to the genus Quercus, evolved from a single undifferentiated ...
biotechnology worker x

Can GMOs rescue threatened plants and crops?

Some scientists and ecologists argue that humans are in the midst of an "extinction crisis" — the sixth wave of ...
food globe x

Are GMOs necessary to feed the world?

Experts estimate that agricultural production needs to roughly double in the coming decades. How can that be achieved? ...
eating gmo corn on the cob x

Are GMOs safe?

In 2015, 15 scientists and activists issued a statement, "No Scientific consensus on GMO safety," in the journal Environmental Sciences ...
Screen Shot at PM

Charles Benbrook: Agricultural economist and consultant for the organic industry and anti-biotechnology advocacy groups

Independent scientists rip Benbrook's co-authored commentary in New England Journal calling for reassessment of dangers of all GMO crops and herbicides ...
Screen Shot at PM

ETC Group: ‘Extreme’ biotechnology critic campaigns against synthetic biology and other forms of ‘extreme genetic engineering’

The ETC Group is an international environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Canada whose stated purpose is to monitor "the impact of emerging technologies and ...
Share via
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend