Uganda to Breed Malaria-Fighting Mosquitoes

Government will establish an insectarium where research on genetically-modified mosquitoes will be conducted under a project to fight malaria in Africa.

The mosquitos are meant to quickly spread a genetic mutation that is lethal to its own species [female Anopheles mosquitoes] that transmit malaria.

Mr Jonathan Kayondo, an entomologist at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) 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 being used in the prevention and control of malaria, which include among others, the use of mosquito nets and anti-malaria drugs.

There are about 3,000 species of mosquitoes on planet earth, 800 of which are in Africa.

However, only three species including the anopheles mosquito cause malaria.

The researchers will review the vector composition abundance and diversity amongst malaria spreading mosquitos, 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 area plagued by malaria across Africa.

Scientists hope that they would spread their mutation and eventually sterilise 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 organisations across Africa will be overseen by the United States Agency for International Development and United Kingdom Aid on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Philanthropy Foundation.

The partners have so far injected $25 million (Shs90 billion) on the project, which is also running in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana.

Ms Deborah Malac, the US ambassador in Uganda says the strengthening of laboratory systems that do research, will enable Uganda and other countries around the world remain prepared to fight 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 Commonwealth organisation expects to reduce global malaria infections by half by 2023.

Mr Jimmy Opigo, the Director Malaria Control Programme in Uganda says such targets are constrained by the physical location of Uganda.

"The climatic conditions in the country threaten our strides to end malaria since we are close to the equator and have a conducive climate. Mosquitos such as the anopheles mosquitos want to live in such environment," Mr Opigo says.

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