Guidance Framework for testing genetically modified mosquitoes

TDR news item
29 October 2012

A public consultation is now being held online on a draft guidance framework to provide quality standards for assessing the safety and efficacy of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes for malaria and dengue control.

So far, trials of GM mosquitoes have been conducted in enclosed spaces, such as large cages, or under controlled field conditions. Once published, the guidance document is intended to help those planning and conducting all phases of testing.

The main method currently under discussion seeks to suppress the number of wild mosquitoes by changing the males genetically so that their offspring do not survive to adulthood after release in the field.

Another method, which is still under development, is to genetically change mosquitoes so that they no longer transmit malaria parasites and dengue pathogens. In this second case, “The idea would be for the GM mosquitoes to replace the wild population,” said Dr Yeya Touré, team leader of the Vectors, Environment and Society unit at TDR. “ It is important to have mechanisms in place to ensure that the GM mosquitoes are safe for human health and the environment.

The guidance framework development process has been led by two organizations: TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, which is based at the World Health Organization and co-sponsored by UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank and WHO, and by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) in the United States. Its drafting and review were undertaken through a collaboration with more than 40 experts worldwide who either contributed to working groups or served as external reviewers. It has gone through a series of reviews by health experts in developing and developed countries, as well as experts from other fields including molecular biology, ecology, regulatory requirements, and ethical, social and cultural issues. This is its first public consultation.

TDR has been working for several years to develop a pool of scientists well trained in the assessment and management of biosafety for human health and the environment in relation to the potential use of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes for the control of vector-borne diseases. Courses in biosafety have been held in regional training centres in Africa, Asia and Latin America for 148 participants from 51 countries over three years (2008-2010).

For more information, please contact:

Dr Yeya Touré