Jennifer O’Mahony / WIRED
Over the next year in the village of Bana, Burkina Faso, a group of scientists will set loose up to 10,000 mosquitoes sprinkled with fluorescent dust. The sterile, male swarm will represent the first ever release of a genetically modified, malaria carrying mosquito species into the wild. It’s a milestone not only for science, but also for community engagement and regulatory hurdles in Africa.
Most significantly, however, these mosquitoes will lay the ground for the eventual deployment of a powerful biological tool which researchers hope will one day stop malaria altogether.
The Target Malaria consortium, based at Imperial College London, wants to drastically reduce the world’s population of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes by forcing selective bias in the insects’ inheritance of certain genes – a process known as gene drive.