Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Ugandan government is instituting an insectarium where research on genetically modified mosquitoes will be conducted as a way of fighting malaria in Africa. The mosquito is designed to quickly spread a genetic mutation that is lethal to its own species.
UVRI entomologist Jonathan Kayondo says that the research will inform a plan to use genetically modified mosquitoes to wipe out the malaria-causing breed. The intervention will be added to the current methods used in the prevention and control of Malaria, among others, the use of mosquito nets and medicines.
There are about 3,000 species of mosquitoes on planet earth, 800 of which are in Africa. However, only three species cause Malaria, one amongst them is anopheles mosquito.
The researchers will review the vector composition abundance and diversity amongst malaria spreading mosquitoes, the vector biting, resting, mating and breeding behaviour and insecticides used to kill mosquitoes before coming up with final results to be used to combat malaria.
The idea is that if these modified mosquitoes are eventually shown to be safe and effective, they might be released in villages plagued by malaria across Africa. Scientists hope that they would spread their mutation and eventually sterilize all the females, thereby crashing or drastically reducing local populations of the main species of mosquito that spreads malaria.
The research, being carried out by a consortium of several research organizations across Africa will be overseen by the United States Agency for International Development – USAID and UKAID on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Philanthropy Foundation. The partners have so far injected USD 25 million (90 billion Shillings) on the project, which is also running in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
Deborah Malac, the US Ambassador in Uganda says the strengthening of Laboratory systems that do research will enable Uganda and several countries around the world remain prepared to fight against the ever-increasing emerging health-related disasters.
Uganda registered up to 10,000,000 cases of malaria in 2018, ranking 5th amongst countries in the world with the highest malaria prevalence.
The global goal is to eradicate Malaria by 2030, according to the United Nations while the Common Wealth Organization expects to reduce global malaria infections by half by 2023. Jimmy Opigo, the Director Malaria Control Programme in Uganda says such targets are constrained by the physical location of Uganda.
“The Climate conditions in the country threaten our strides to end Malaria since we are close to the equator and have a conducive climate. Mosquitoes such as the anopheles’ want to live in such environment,” Opigo says.