Photo by Jim Herrington/Fogarty
Rather than eradicating malaria from mosquito vectors, some scientists propose replacing wild populations with genetically engineered mosquitoes that are incapable of transmitting malaria to humans. This strategy appears more feasible as interest by international funding agencies increases, according to one article in the supplement.
However, several scientific and political roadblocks remain, according to Dr. Bart Knols, of the University of Nairobi, and his research team. Even with the genome for Anopheles gambiae available, scientists are still struggling to engineer refractory mosquitos that are unable to transmit Plasmodium falciparum parasites. Once these mosquitoes are created, there remain challenges related to driving these refractory genes into the native populations and sustaining the mutations through multiple generations of mosquitoes.
The authors suggest that the social hurdles for implementing such a strategy may be even more daunting than the scientific. Creating the global partnerships needed even for the most basic field trials will be a challenge, they acknowledge, if the research and risks are going to be managed in an ethical and culturally sensitive manner.
Transgenic Mosquitoes and the Fight Against Malaria: Managing Technology Push in a Turbulent GMO World. Knols BGJ, Bossin HC, Mukabana WR, Robinson AS. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2007; 77(Suppl 6): 232-242.