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
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
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.