Often the first question that I am asked when I tell people about Target Malaria is ‘If you succeed, what about the other animals?’ This is an excellent question about potential ecological consequences and is rightly asked by all sorts of people in very many situations from academic meetings to day-to-day conversations.
Malaria continues to rank high on Uganda’s health radar beckoning scientists, health care professionals and the general public to collectively seek innovative high impact solutions to complement existing malaria control tools. Over 200 million people are infected with malaria every year. In Uganda, over 12 million cases were reported in 2016, of which an estimated 13,000 deaths were reported (WHO 2017: 124). It therefore means that many have experienced bouts of malaria attacks, have nursed a loved one or even lost a close family member, friend or acquaintance to the disease.
Professor Sir Charles Godfray is a Professor of Population Biology and the Director of the Martin School at the University of Oxford. He leads a team at Oxford that is a member of Target Malaria and they work on modelling the different aspects of the spread of genes through mosquito populations to better understand the consequence it may have on population.
25th April. Yet again another World Malaria Day. This day is commemorated since 2007. And in this last 11 years, so much was achieved, thanks to existing tools and combined efforts from governments, NGOs, civil society groups, researchers, corporate sector, and communities in endemic countries. Back in 2007, more than a million deaths were due to malaria, while the numbers of 2016 have decreased below half a million (WHO World Malaria Reports). So we should celebrate…
Security was tight as we arrived at the Malaria Summit yesterday, unsurprisingly given that 16 Heads of Commonwealth States, HRH Prince of Wales and the Duke of York would be arriving later in the day! Malaria is a particularly pertinent issue to the Commonwealth, where 90% of the population are at risk.
Earlier this year, the Stakeholder Engagement and Communication teams from the three partner countries of Target Malaria in Africa met in Accra (Ghana) for a workshop to discuss the stakeholder engagement work that is being carried out on the ground in Burkina Faso, Mali and Uganda.
Field Entomology is a big component of Target Malaria’s work. Krystal Birungi, Field Entomology Coordinator at the Uganda Virus Research Institute tells us about the importance of gathering baseline data to get a better understanding of the Anopheles gambiae mosquito in Uganda, the primary malaria vector in the country.
The Stoddard Lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA uses a combination of biochemistry, structural biology, and protein engineering to create custom-specificity enzymes which cleave genomic DNA at desired target sequences. Dr. Barry Stoddard has studied a family of proteins called meganucleases (also known as homing endonucleases) for decades, seeking to understand how they do their job and what factors affect their activity and stability.
Most mosquito species have a flight range of 1-3 miles. In November 2016, a particular strain of anopheles mosquitoes flew from London, where they were born, to Italy, where they were further analysed, to finally reach a city in West Africa called Bobo-Dioulasso, a total distance of over 5000 miles, all of which was flown at egg stage for the mosquitoes. These mosquitoes represent the first major step for scientists at Imperial College of London, in their journey as part of a bigger team and effort, towards their end goal to reduce transmission of Malaria in endemic countries such as Burkina Faso.
It is a mild and cloudy Tuesday morning in London. The streets are busy with crowds of families and tourists queueing to enter the museums in South Kensington. Little of this is visible from a high-containment laboratory kept at 28 degrees Celsius and high humidity to mimic tropical environmental conditions. In a basement laboratory at Imperial College London a young scientist is looking at some mosquito larvae through the microscope. After having screened thousands of larvae, she finally finds what she was looking for. A tiny mosquito larva with bright, red, fluorescent eyes. She carefully collects it, and puts the precious larva in a separate tray filled with salty water. When this fluorescent mosquito will emerge as adult, it will be crossed to a wild-type mosquito and the progeny will be analysed for its ability to alter the laws of inheritance. This is an additional step in our long journey towards the generation of modified mosquito strains that could reduce the transmission of malaria. The glowing eyes are the result of a marker (a fluorescent protein, like the ones of jellyfish) we use to tag the modifications that we introduce into the mosquito genome. The fluorescence helps us to track and to distinguish the modified mosquitoes from the unmodified.