Scientists at Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) have started breeding Genetically Modified with the aim of using them to eliminate the cases of malaria transmission.

The Target Malaria insectary, which was opened on 29 July 2019 at UVRI in Entebbe is one of four similar sites including those in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Mali developed in an effort to eradicate malaria.

According to the scientists, the genetically modified mosquitoes do not transmit malaria parasites when they bite.

Uganda’s Daily Monitor reported the project lead coordinator at the UVRI, Dr Jonathan Kayondo, as saying that when the modified male mosquito mates with common mosquitoes, the female off springs are infertile with the aim of significantly reducing or eliminating the population of mosquitoes thereby stopping malaria transmission and deaths.

“We have malaria control measures such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying and drugs for the treatment of malaria which have helped a lot, but malaria is still here with us. We need to get additional tools to help us eradicate the disease,” Dr Kayondo said was quoted as saying.

He said the Target malaria project has a novel approach that targets malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. It targets their reproduction so that they become less and stop transmitting the disease. ,” he added.

“The technology is cost-effective compared to the current methods such as providing insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Investment is needed when developing it but then it is self-sustaining once you develop,” Dr Kayondo said.

Up to $1 million is being injected in the project which started each year. This will be sustained for five years with the biggest funds coming from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to Dr Kayondo.

Ms Krystal Birungi, the insect scientist in the study, said they are also studying mosquitoes in different areas of the country to determine the density and whether the insecticides used  are still killing them.

Senior Adviser of entomology at Uganda’s Ministry of Health Malaria Control Programme, Mr Charles Ntege, said the fight against malaria needs fresh tools.

“We need new innovations. The gene drive method is one of the ways. It requires less funding and supervision,” he said.

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