Last Wednesday, it was announced that the government of Burkina Faso greenlighted the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes into Burkinabe village, Bana in Burkina Faso later this month.
The program is part of Target Malaria, which is being spearheaded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It also an effort to use bioengineering to eradicate the spread of malaria by decreasing the number of the disease spreading insects.
About 10,000 mosquitoes will be set out into the atmosphere and will be mostly male. They will be sterile and if they happen to bite, will not release any genetically manipulated material as reported by Scientific Research.
The project will also be conducted in two villages within the same proximity of Burkinabe. Six leaders gave the go-ahead for the commencement of the program. Burkina Faso’s national biosafety authority granted permission on August 10.
To quell concerns and language barriers, Lea Pure, who is head of outreach in Burkina Faso stated that her team enlisted the help of linguists to work in conjunction with inhabitants of the village to formulate a vocabulary of scientific phrases in Dioula to streamline communication. Residents were also concerned that the sterility of the mosquitoes could somehow be passed to humans if they were to get bitten. They were assured that it would not be possible.
In April, a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal revealed that high doses of ivermectin, a pill used to fight parasites, can make human blood poisonous to mosquitoes and kill them.
It revealed that the blood of patients, who took high doses of ivermectin (600mcg/kg or 300mg/kg) in pill form over three days remained poisonous to mosquitoes for up to 28 days.
“The most exciting result was the fact that even one month after (the subjects took) ivermectin, their blood was still killing mosquitoes,” Dr. Menno Smit of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine was quoted by Sacbee.
“That’s much longer than we thought.”
The researchers fed the mosquitoes in cages using blood samples taken from 47 volunteers.
“We put the blood in an artificial membrane that mosquitoes could bite on and then watched,” Smit said.
He said most died within a week, and 97 percent died within two weeks.
The Kenya Medical Research Institute and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also participated in the research.