Mosquitoes rigged to eradicate malaria don't impress all bioethicists.
Scientists plan to release genetically-modified mosquitoes into malaria-affliced Burkina Faso in hopes of one day erasing the disease. Gene drives work by using CRISPR genetic editing techniques to rig a trait to persist; in this case, skewing the mosquito population male should be enough, since the males don't bite.
Despite calls for the UN to shut down gene drive technology, Gates Foundation money says these will be the first-ever animals with gene drives sent into the wild (as soon as 2022). There's concern that the gene drive could be too successful, proliferate beyond intention, and kill off other species or wreck ecosystems. But many think things will go the other way. While gene drives are well understood in the lab, evolution doesn't always go along merrily with plans. Indeed, this January researchers found that resistance to the gene drive emerged within a few generations in mosquitoes, and would likely proliferate under wild conditions.
Nature isn't the only thing that could derail the project: in a great piece of medical anthropology-cum-journalism, STAT looked at how researchers will have to work with local populations.
New Zealand may also apply the technology to eradicate invasive mammals.