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Madame Curie Bioscience Database [Internet]. Austin (TX): Landes Bioscience; 2000-2013.

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Everything (or Almost Everything) You Want to Know about Genetically Modified Mosquitoes for Malaria Control but Are (Maybe) Afraid to Ask

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Despite a century of research and attempts to control one of the deadliest foes of mankind, the malaria situation remains a major public health problem.1 Obviously bio-logical explanations (the resistance of parasites and mosquitoes against available drugs and insecticides respectively) are often given, but they remain partial and incomplete. Indeed, the deterioration of socio-economic conditions due to the policies imposed on many developing countries by international financial institutions, such as the structural adjustment programmes and the mechanism of debt, plays an important role in the malaria situation and its evolution.2

In the last decade, molecular biology has been a source of great hope for creating genetically-modified mosquitoes able to resist the malaria parasite.3 If technical progress permits confidence in the creation of such nonvectors, many questions remain open concerning the putative success of their deployment and the resultant reduction of malaria transmission. Indeed the understanding of the coevolutionary processes underlying malaria/mosquito interactions is crucially lacking despite its enormous importance.4 Moreover, when discussing transgenic mosquitoes, one critical point is the spread of the allele conferring resistance in mosquito populations ensuring the replacement of a or several populations of vectors able to transmit malaria by (theroretically) unable one(s). However, invading a whole population of mosquitoes with a transgene (composed with an allele conferring malaria-resistance and a driving system) is unlikely to be an easy task, it will at least depend on the population structure5 and on the quality of the driver.6 Alongside this, it appears that the spread of refractoriness itself is necessary but not sufficient as interactions between the allele of interest, the parasite and the environment may affect refractoriness 7 and thus limit the expected success in terms of malaria control. Indeed the aim of a release of transgenic mosquitoes is not the spread of an allele of interest in mosquito populations but a real decrease in the malaria burden, it seems then crucial to have a look at the possible consequences of such a release. How does a reduction in malaria transmission affect the epidemiology of the disease?8 What could be the evolutionary consequences in terms of the virulence of the parasite?9 Thus it appears that the idea of using GM mosquitoes opens up more questions than answers and calls for some rethinking in malaria biology.10 Moreover, if the mainstream perspective concerning the use of transgenic mosquitoes is dealing with spreading refractoriness in wild populations of mosquitoes, little has been done about methods for affecting the mosquito-host interactions whether it be with GM technology or using more conventional methods.11 Finally, prior to any release of transgenic insects, numerous ethical, legal and social questions 12,13 are still pending and the questioning of the interest of such a high-tech method for malaria control and its societal implications seems highly necessary.14

References

1.
Théra MA, Djimde AA, Dicko A. et al. Malaria Situation in the beginning of the XXIst century. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
2.
Castro J, Millet D. Malaria and structural adjustment: Proof by contradiction. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
3.
Catteruccia F, Brown AE, Petris E. et al. Development of a toolkit for manipulating malaria vectors. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/ Landes Bioscience. 2005
4.
Little TJ. Immune system polymorphism: Implications for genetic engineering. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
5.
Simard F, Lehmann T. Predicting the spread of transgene in African malaria vector populations: Current knowledge and limitations. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
6.
Curtis CF, Coleman PG, Kelly DW. et al. Advantages and limitations of transgenic vector control: Sterile males versus genes drivers. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
7.
Boëte C. Malaria-refractoriness in mosquito: Just a matter of harbouring genes? In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
8.
Reyburn H, Drakeley C. The epidemiological consequences of reducing the transmission intensity of P. falciparum. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
9.
Ferguson HM, Gandon S, Mackinnon MJ. et al. Malaria parasite virulence in mosquitoes and its implications for the introduction and efficacy of GMM malaria control programmes. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
10.
Chevillon C, Paul REL, de Meeûs T. et al. Thinking transgenic vectors in a population context: Some expectations and many open questions. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
11.
Takken W, Costantini C. The genetic of vector-host interactions: Alternative strategies for genetic engineering for malaria control. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
12.
Touré YT, Knols BGJ. Genetically-modified mosquitoes for malaria control: Requirements to be considered before field releases. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
13.
Macer D. Ethics and community engagement for GM insect vector release. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
14.
Boëte C. Transgenic mosquitoes for malaria control: Time to spread out of the scientific arena. In: Boëte C, ed. Genetically modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Georgetown: Eurekah/Landes Bioscience. 2005
Copyright © 2000-2013, Landes Bioscience.
Bookshelf ID: NBK6427

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