WHO Releases a Position Statement on Genetically Modified Mosquitoes for the Control of Vector-Borne Diseases
Genetically modified mosquitoes could be an innovative tool to combat vector-borne diseases and eliminate malaria.

Genetically modified mosquitoes could be an innovative tool to combat vector-borne diseases and eliminate malaria, says a new WHO position statement. Genetically modified mosquitoes are designed to suppress mosquito populations and reduce their susceptibility to infection and their ability to transmit disease-carrying pathogens.

WHO announced their support for the continued investigation into genetically modified mosquitoes as an alternative to existing interventions to reduce or prevent vector-borne diseases.

“These diseases are not going away,” said John Reeder, Director of TDR, the Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases. “We really do need to think about new tools that could make an impact.”

Each year 700,000 people die from vector-borne diseases and over 80 percent of the global population live in areas with higher risks of contracting a vector-borne disease, including malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and others. Major vector-borne diseases account for 17 percent of the global burden of communicable diseases.

Genetically modified mosquito approaches use recombinant DNA technology to introduce heritable traits to reduce the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases. WHO raised concerns about the ethics, safety, and governance of this new potential vector-borne disease control strategy.

The statement advised for the implementation of oversight mechanisms, risk assessment, and community engagement for further research and field trials of genetically modified mosquitoes. Guidance on vector-borne disease prevention and control was released by the WHO to respond to key ethical issues involved.

Image Credits: Flickr: Tom.

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