Molecular Medicine Israel

Will GM Insects Help Stop Disease?

A variety of genetic strategies to counter insect-borne diseases are close to maturity

Insects transmit some of the world’s most debilitating pathogens, including those responsible for malaria, dengue fever, Chagas disease, and sleeping sickness. So, naturally, the best way to fight these life-threatening diseases is at their source. Historically, malaria and dengue control strategies have incorporated insect population control using insecticides, but in recent years, researchers have turned to genetic engineering. By developing mosquitoes that don’t carry such pathogens, researchers hope to stop disease spread in its tracks.

After many years of hopeful development, such genetically modified mosquitoes might finally be close to proving their worth. Field tests of genetically-sterilized mosquitoes, targeted at dengue-carrying species, are demonstrating encouraging suppression of mosquito populations, while a variety of genetically manipulated malaria- or dengue-resistant mosquitoes are nearing their chance at tackling mosquito-borne infections outside the laboratory.

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