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  • Scientist assure gene drive lab trials were successful

    Scientist assure gene drive lab trials were successful | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 September 2019

Thousands of people die every year in Africa due to Malaria. Gene drive is the newest effort to stop it

A new solution against malaria was applied as thousands of genetically sterilized mosquitoes were set free in Burkina Faso, a country where 100 percent of the population is at risk of getting that often deadly disease.

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For years scientists have been working on the technique known as Gene Drive which alters a gene on the species which are then spread through for reproduction. The goal, in this case, is to downsize the population of malaria-carrying species, not to totally eradicate them, according to researchers.

However, many oppose these experiments. In Burkina Faso some are not enthusiastic about being used as guinea pigs, Reuters continues, as some fear the mosquito will endanger other steps on the natural chain as well. Internationally others share such doubts because they see the possibility that Gene Drive could be used to alter human genetics or be weaponized. 

The Conversation reports Malaria is responsible for millions of people getting sick every year. Although the numbers of deadly victims have lowered, still nearly half a million die every year, 90 percent of them in the African continent. In Burkina Faso, half the population had the disease in 2018 and 28 thousand died because of it. 

This project is the result of years of efforts by scientists, activists and NGOs. Gene Drive was tested in Imperial College London, where it was successful, Reuters explains.

Only time will say if the experiment works in Burkina Faso and can be used to prevent malaria worldwide, although Gene Drive remains a worrying technique for many. 

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