Genetic mosquitoes: how Djibouti uses ‘good mosquitoes’ to fight malaria

Wia this photo comes from, oxitec company

What do we call this photo? Scientists say mosquitoes are not toxic or allergic to pipo

  • Author, Dorcas Wangira
  • Role, Africa Health Correspondent, BBC News

Democrats have released tens of thousands of genetically modified (GMO) mosquitoes to Djibouti as part of an effort to stop the spread of an invasive species of mosquito that transmits malaria.

A UK-based biotech company, Oxitec, develops nasty, non-biting male Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes.

It is the first time mosquitoes of this type have been released in East Africa and the second time on the continent.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says similar technology is seeing success in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Panama and India.

Democrats also said that one billion genetically modified mosquitoes have been released worldwide since 2019.

Democrats released the first batch of mosquitoes outdoors on Thursday in Ambouli, a suburb of Djibouti City.

This is the pilot phase of the partnership between Oxitec Ltd, the government of Djibouti and an NGO called Association Mutualis.

How these mosquitoes work

Wia this photo comes from, oxitec company

What do we call this photo? Malaria kills more than 500,000 people in Africa every year

Mosquitoes produced in the laboratory acquire a “self-limiting” gene.

When we mate with a female mosquito, the male offspring survive, but the females do not survive to adulthood.

Even male pikin that survive will eventually become extinct, according to the scientists behind the project.

“We build good mosquitoes that don’t bite and don’t transmit diseases. And as we release hostile mosquitoes, they go to seek out and mate with wild-type female mosquitoes,” Oxitec’s father, Gray Frandsen, tells the BBC.

The mosquitoes – Anopheles stephensi – are different from the Anopheles colluzzi mosquitoes that were released in Burkina Faso in 2018, whose main objective is sterile and difficult, at the moment it is not to impact malaria but to study how transgenic mosquitoes interact with normal mosquitoes. some.

The Djibouti Friendly Mosquito Program began two years ago to stop the spread of Anopheles stephensi, an invasive species of mosquito that was first detected in the country in 2012.

At that time, the country has almost eliminated malaria, but has recorded about 30 cases of malaria. Since then, malaria cases have not increased and will reach 73,000 in 2020.

This species of mosquito is now present in six countries in Africa: Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, Nigeria and Ghana.

The Di Stephensi species, also called urban mosquito, is native to Asia and is very difficult to control. They bite both day and night and are resistant to chemical insecticides.

“Not long ago, malaria was extremely rare in our communities, but now we see malaria patients suffering daily across Djibouti. New interventions are urgently needed,” said Dr Bouh Abdi Khaireh, spokesperson for Association Mutualis.

Organizers said it was easy to implement the new malaria project because of Djibouti’s small size; The country has just over a million people.

“Malaria is a serious disease that really affects our health. People are really looking forward to seeing how hostile mosquitoes help us win the fight,” Saada Ismael, a malaria survivor who participated in community preparation, tells the BBC.

GMOs are a highly controversial issue for Africa, with environmental groups and activists failing to warn that they will have consequences for existing ecosystems and food chains.

But Oga Frandsen of Oxitec says they never documented any adverse effects on the environment or human health for 10 years, and in that time the developer released about a billion modified mosquitoes.

“Our goal is to ensure that everything we release to the environment is safe and highly effective. No environmental impact is achieved. They are not toxic or allergenic,” he said.

The genetically modified genes do not exist in mosquito saliva and, according to Oxitec, even if a person bites, the person is not exposed to the effects of the genes.

“This new solution is controversial but has no future,” said presidential health advisor Dr. Abdoulilah Ahmed Abdi.

If successful, they will continue with broader field trials and eventual operational deployment of the mosquitoes until next year in the country.

Malaria is a deadly disease that kills at least 600,000 people worldwide every year. Nine in 10 of all deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

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