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Ingeborg van Schayk's blog

Last week at MalariaWorld: Scientists divided over 'gene drive mosquitoes'

November 15, 2018 - 21:55 -- Ingeborg van Schayk

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The most promising or the most frightening experiment in the fight against malaria: should or shouldn’t we use genetically modified mosquitoes to combat malaria?

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” (Jurassic Park)
The fight against malaria is a hard one and every person that dies of malaria is one too many. But how far should we go? How much should we put at risk to achieve elimination. What are the ethical, social, environmental and political issues at stake? And who is to decide?
From 13 - 29 November 2018 there is a UN’s convention on biological diversity (CBD) meeting in in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The Guardian reports that at this particular meeting “recommendations will be considered that call on governments to refrain from releasing organisms that contain gene drives, even in small-scale field trials”. If a UN biodiversity conference imposes a moratorium on this kind of work there could be serious consequences for research on genetically modified mosquitoes and their potential release in the ‘real world’.
But scientists are divided over whether or not ‘gene drive mosquitoes’ should play a role in malaria elimination.

On the one hand there are scientists that believe that the gene drive approach has the potential to significantly reduce the Anopheles gambiae population. Engineered gene drives will be used to modify the DNA of wild organisms on a large scale. The modified mosquitoes will then pass on the mutated gene that renders the females sterile. As a result the population crashes.

On the other hand there are scientist that argue that gene drives pose an unacceptable risk by spreading modified genes through the environment with unpredictable consequences.

And there are scientists, civilians and politicians who argue that it is unethical that ‘western or northern’ funded research groups want to release these genetically modified organisms on the African continent. 
The question remains: Who is to decide? What do you think? We will post a poll on this tomorrow.  We welcome your view.
Further reading: 

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Press release: Researchers receive $10.2 million to study new malaria-prevention method

December 11, 2015 - 06:43 -- Ingeborg van Schayk
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In collaboration with partners in Europe and Africa, researchers at Penn State have received a five-year, $10.2-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to investigate a new method for preventing the transmission of malaria. The method involves limiting mosquito access to houses by blocking openings and installing "eave tubes" that contain a unique type of insecticide-laced mosquito netting developed by Dutch partner In2Care that kills the insects as they attempt to enter. 

Looking back at MIM2018: Some food for thought

April 26, 2018 - 20:26 -- Ingeborg van Schayk

I visited the largest malaria conference on the African continent. More than 2.000 malaria professionals gathered in Dakar for the 7th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria Conference. Every day started with a plenary session presented by 2 keynote speakers: 12 keynote addresses by 12 renowned scientists. But... only 2 were African.

How One Child’s Sickle Cell Mutation Helped Protect the World From Malaria

March 13, 2018 - 17:25 -- Ingeborg van Schayk

8 March 2018, Carl Zimmer (New York Times)

The genetic mutation arose 7,300 years ago in just one person in West Africa, scientists reported on Thursday. Its advantage: a shield against rampant malaria.

Thousands of years ago, a special child was born in the Sahara. At the time, this was not a desert; it was a green belt of savannas, woodlands, lakes and rivers. Bands of hunter-gatherers thrived there, catching fish and spearing hippos.

Building out vector-borne diseases in Africa – launch of new research network and funding call!

September 8, 2017 - 07:44 -- Ingeborg van Schayk

Durham University and University College London are pleased to announce the establishment of a new multi-disciplinary research network called the BOVA (Building out vector-borne diseases in sub-Saharan Africa) Network. 

Video from #Malaria Consortium Fighting Malaria in the Sahel

August 11, 2017 - 16:11 -- Ingeborg van Schayk

For the 25 million children who live across the Sahel, where there is a seasonal surge in malaria incidence, the World Health Organization recommends seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) as an effective tool in the fight against malaria. Approximately 12 million children were protected through SMC programmes in 2016, with over 6.4 million children covered through the ACCESS-SMC project, funded by UNITAID and led by Malaria Consortium in partnership with Catholic Relief Services. 

Special message for medical entomologists in Africa | Message spécial pour les entomologistes médicaux en Afrique

August 11, 2017 - 09:31 -- Ingeborg van Schayk

We are excited to start a survey for the Pan African Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA), sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. PAMCA is currently establishing a database of all institutions and individual scientists operating in the field of medical entomology, in particular mosquito borne diseases, across Africa.


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