BOBO-DIOULASSO, BURKINA FASO – The mosquito-borne disease malaria kills more than 400,000 people annually, the vast majority in Africa.
Target Malaria, an international group of scientists, is working on a genetic solution in Burkina Faso.
Abdoulaye Diabate, with the West African country’s research institute for science and health, said the goal of Target Malaria is to develop a genetic control that is specifically applied to mosquitoes to drastically reduce or eliminate the density of mosquitoes.
The scientists are genetically modifying mosquitoes so that their offspring will only be male, and any females they mate with after release will also only produce males.
Since only female mosquitoes spread malaria, the disease should rapidly decline along with their population.
In the village of Bana, where the genetically modified mosquitoes were first tested in 2019, residents were initially concerned about the experiment.
Kiesiara Sanou, a village elder in Bana, said people initially thought the survey would release mosquitoes in the village which could cause more diseases. But since they worked with Target Malaria, they have understood exactly what the purpose is and even help them with tasks like collecting the mosquitoes.
Genetically modified mosquitoes are just one malaria solution tested in Burkina Faso. The country was also a pioneer in mosquito nets applied by pesticides.
The Jenner Institute of the University of Oxford announced in April that a malaria vaccine tested in Burkina Faso had a breakthrough of 77%.
According to Target Malaria, climate and environment play a major role in the latest research on malaria.
Naima Sykes, of Target Malaria, said according to the WHO 2019 World Malaria Report, more than 94% of malaria cases and deaths occurred in Africa.
Sykes added that Target Malaria is looking for institutions in countries with significant malaria quality and a strong desire to do something about it, when he found institutions to work with.
The West African Organization for Coordination and Cooperation in the Control of Major Endemic Diseases was established in the 1960s with its headquarters in Burkina Faso.
The research institute’s Diabate points out that scientists are the third generation of malaria researchers.
If you grow up in Burkina Faso’s area, malaria becomes part of your daily life, and it may make you think it will be inevitable, Diabate said. But he said that when he went to school, his mind opened up, and he soon realized what the source of the problem was.
Thanks to the hard work of researchers, says Diabate, Africa’s deadly malaria problem is getting closer to being solved.