Science & Technology

Genetically modified mosquitoes; WHO issues new guidance for research

The WHO standards are mainly about ethics, safety, affordability and effectiveness of genetically-modified mosquitoes

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 20 May 2021

Genetically-modified mosquitoes or GMMs have been used across the world to control mosquitoes. GMMs have been able to bring down the population of the Aedes aegypti by 90 per cent in countries like Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Panama and Malaysia.

But there have never been any global protocols or standards on the breeding of GMMs. The World Health Organization has addressed this by setting essential standards for the research and development of GMMs. These standards are mainly about ethics, safety, affordability and effectiveness of GMMS.

The new guidance includes:

  • Studying the impact of GMMs on human health, animal health and the environment.
  • To know the most effective strategies for risk assessment and stakeholder engagement.
  • Make guidelines to proceed from one testing phase to the next, incorporating reliable GMM technologies. 
  • A concrete set of safety and efficacy considerations should be evaluated at each phase of testing.

GMMs are male mosquitoes modified to carry a lethal gene. When they mate, the genes get passed on to their offspring. The gene prevents female offspring from building an essential protein and causes them to die before reaching maturity.

GMMs could become a cost-effective and powerful tool to control mosquitoes. Over 40,000 people die from malaria and 100-400 million people get infected with dengue each year. They can reach mosquito populations and mosquito larval breeding sites that are currently expensive and difficult to reach. It can target specific mosquito species and thus avoid the ecological and environmental hazards of usual insecticides.

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