(CTN News) – Malaria, Abdoulaye Diabate, a scientist from Africa, is currently working on a groundbreaking technology called ‘gene drive’ that has the potential to eradicate malaria or the mosquitoes that cause it from the continent.
Diabate, who received the prestigious 2023 Falling Walls Prize for Science and Innovation Management, is developing an ingenious technique that can eliminate female mosquitoes responsible for transmitting malaria by modifying their genes.
Using gene drive technology, the reproduction of female mosquitoes is hindered by releasing genetically modified male mosquitoes into the environment.
This approach would result in a significant reduction in the number of female mosquitoes, thereby combating malaria throughout the continent.
According to CNN, Diabate stated, “When the (gene-edited) mosquitoes are released in the field… they will spread throughout the entire mosquito population and immediately reduce malaria transmission.”
He further explained that these genetically modified mosquitoes would effectively carry out the task, eliminating the need for humans to physically intervene and deliver other malaria control measures.
Moreover, Diabate emphasized that this method is not only more sustainable but also cost-effective.
However, he acknowledged that it may still take several more years before the technology is fully developed and ready for implementation.
Africa is faced with a significant challenge when it comes to malaria.
Africa bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide, accounting for 96 percent of the total 619,000 deaths in 2021, as per the latest data from the WHO. Among this 96 percent, 80 percent of the deaths were reported in children under the age of five.
To combat this menace, Diabate emphasized the need to develop innovative tools to control malaria. He highlighted that while bed nets have been effective, there is now widespread insecticide resistance among different mosquito species responsible for transmitting malaria.
However, despite the potential of this technology, health authorities worldwide have raised concerns about its ecological impact. Some advocacy groups strongly oppose the technology, expressing concerns about its unpredictable effects on the ecosystem.
Save Our Seeds (SOS), a German-based advocacy group cautioned on its website that every living creature, even if perceived as dangerous or harmful to humans, plays a crucial role in its habitat. Therefore, the eradication or manipulation of a species will inevitably have consequences for the entire ecosystem.