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Crop Biotech Update

Burkinabe GM Mosquito Malaria Eradication Project Gets off to a Good Start

November 22, 2017

Principal investigator of the Target Malaria Project in Burkina Faso Dr. Abdoulaye Diabate said that the GM mosquito research has taken off successfully in the country. Speaking during an information and training workshop on the implementation of the authorization to experiment with transgenic mosquitoes held on November 8-9, 2017, Dr. Diabate said the project team has been trained on maintaining and working with modified mosquitoes in a contained environment.

Target Malaria is an innovative project aiming to reduce the population of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes in sub-Saharan Africa consequentially reducing the transmission of the disease. The project uses gene drive technology to insert a gene into the genome of male mosquitoes to make them sterile. The male mosquitoes are then released in swarms to the wild to mate with Anopheles gambiae mosquito, responsible for most cases of malaria in Africa. The male induces their sterility to the female, thus cutting down mosquito population.

Dr. Diabate made an assurance that once finalized, the technology will be made available to the governments of countries affected by this parasitic disease without license fees. He urged stakeholders to synergize action for the efficient implementation of the project to fight effectively against malaria.

Prof. Chantal Zoungrana, Director General of the Burkina Faso Biosafety Authority emphasized the importance of setting up a communication mechanism in the national biosafety framework. She noted that this is particularly important for the country due to the upsurge of anti-GM activists following the suspension of Bt cotton production in 2016.

The workshop, attended by members of the national biosafety framework and stakeholders from the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation (MESRSI), also focused on Burkinabe national biosafety framework with special emphasis on the regulatory system governing the implementation of the Target Malaria project.

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 200 million new cases of malaria infection and 420,000 deaths every year. Africa alone accounts for 90% of the cases and 92% of the deaths. In Africa, the economic losses associated with this disease are estimated at about twelve million dollars a year.

Read more from the National Agency for Biosafety (ANB) of Burkina Faso.