In 2002 alone, Malaria is the cause for about 627,000 deaths. A majority of these deaths were African children who did not have adequate medicine and access to medicine. The biggest problem with Malaria in Africa is that mosquitos are reproducing with the same genetic gene which carries the deadly disease.
George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School has a new ‘cutting-edge’ mosquito research that could eradicate the Malaria carrying mosquito population completely within a few generations. Church has come with the idea to genetically alter the genes of male mosquitos since they are ones who do not feed on human blood, they feed on plant nectar, which in turn means they do not spread or transmit Malaria.
This process would work based on genetically altering only males with these genetically engineered traits, which are engineered to carry a gene which gives their offspring a better chance of being male. Soon after, these altered male mosquitos breed with female mosquitos to pass their genetically engineered trait along to the offspring. The best case scenario of this alterations is to produce mosquito offspring which are male, killing off the female mosquito, Malaria carrying mosquitos. This could take a few generations and according to the journal Nature Communications this could work,Male mosquitoes feed on plant nectar, not human blood, and thus don’t transmit malaria. These mosquitos were shown to be able to interbreed with wild mosquitos (in cages), passing on their genetically engineered traits. Because they produce so few female offspring, whole mosquito populations could simply die off within a few generations.”
Although, this seems like a viable option to wipe out Malaria, it also posses a danger to the environment. The offspring of these genetically male mosquitos will pollinate for food which is also consumed by various other species in the ecosystem. It could harm these other species indirectly. Also, animals use mosquitoes as a food source, and like the animals which pollinate, it would affect them.
Another downfall to genetically altering gene technology is how easily it would be able to access. Getting this into the hands of everyone could pose a threat to any species which are not liked by anyone based on their own personal reasons.
For more information on the topic, please visit: MotherJones on their take on the subject.