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Feature Infectious Diseases

Fighting malaria with genetically modified mosquitoes

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 04 August 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2172
  1. Esther Nakkazi, freelance journalist
  1. Kampala, Uganda
  1. estanakkazi{at}

Could a bold project to genetically engineer mosquitoes curb the scourge of malaria in Africa? Finding out will require careful science—and public acceptance, writes Esther Nakkazi

On 29 July 2019, the Target Malaria insectary was opened at the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe. It was the last of four partner sites to open—alongside Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Mali—in an effort to eradicate malaria. The aim: to release mosquitoes into an environment already rife with mosquitoes carrying malaria parasites.

Some 90% of the African population live in areas where malaria is widespread. Of an estimated 405 000 global deaths from the disease in 2018, 94% came from the area covered by the World Health Organization’s African Region.1 The parasite that causes malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes, which carry the disease between the humans and animals they bite.

But this fact is also a potential Achilles’ heel. Because the mosquito is such a vital part of transmission, targeting this vector could make a huge dent in the disease’s impact. Moreover, only female mosquitoes bite and transmit malaria. The Target Malaria project is using this fact, together with genetic modification, to game the mosquito population.

The project alters the eggs of Anopheles gambiae—the mosquito …

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