We have the power to wipe out mosquitoes and malaria—but is that a good idea?

CRISPR/Cas9-based gene drives (GDs) were developed for malaria-carrying mosquito populations. Credit: Jill George/NIH

Gene drives have yet to be tested outside the lab, and even the most developed project to date — the anti-malarial gene drive in Anopheles mosquitoes — won’t be widely available for at least another five years. But many scientists and public-health experts believe that the benefits could be significant. Besides combating malaria, gene drives could be used to alter, or even eliminate, other disease-causing insects.

“This notion of permanently altering the genetics of an entire species — it goes against everything I was trained to think,” says [researcher Todd] Kuiken, who served on the United Nations’ technical experts committee for gene drives. “What’s hard to accept is that, at this point, it might end up being our best option. There’s this kind of fantasy that we can go back, that we can restore some lost Eden. But the reality is that we aren’t making those choices.”

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And even if we could, would it make sense to do so? After all, the rise in antibiotic resistance doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have invented antibiotics at all. Yet innovations inevitably change how we behave, and those changes have consequences.


Read full, original post: The Gene Drive Dilemma: We Can Alter Entire Species, but Should We?

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