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Stop It There

As malaria-carrying mosquitoes develop resistance to insecticides and the malaria parasites themselves develop resistance to treatments, researchers are testing out new approaches to counter malaria, including gene drives, reports the UK's Telegraph.

Imperial College London's Andrea Crisanti and Austin Burt are exploring the use of CRISPR-powered gene drives to diminish the fertility of female mosquitoes or lead them to only produce male offspring to reduce the mosquitoes' numbers, the Telegraph adds. It says that the pair is focusing on three mosquito species that spread malaria in sub-Saharan Africa: Anopheles gambiae, A. coluzzii and A. arabiensis. Gene drives are also being explored as a means to reduce the number of invasive pests in New Zealand, the Galapagos, and California.

Burt tells the Telegraph, though, that it'll be years before their program is ready to test gene drives outside of the lab. The paper notes that while Crisanti and Burt have been working with authorities and communities in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Uganda, there has been increasing resistance to the use of gene drives as there are uncertainties as to their effects on the ecosystem. In 2016, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issued a report that said while gene-drives aren't yet ready to be released, more study of them is warranted.

Other researchers such as Cornell University's Philipp Messer have also noted that resistance to gene drives could also develop, though that there could be ways to design around that eventuality.