The introduction to a new report by The Lancet goes like this: “Malaria, one of the most ancient and deadly diseases of humankind, can and should be eradicated before the middle of the 21st century.”
The popular medical journal’s report highlights how 86 countries battling endemic malaria can get rid of the deadly disease within just one generation. Malaria is common in many countries today, and is transmitted via the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. It releases plasmodium, a parasite, into bloodstream and is especially rampant during monsoons.
The report mentions how India, being a tropical country has high risk of malaria. The country ranks 14th when it comes to the number of malaria cases in the world. This is why it has become a cause for concern. The Lancet study recommends improving the public health system along with private healthcare facilities to tackle malaria outrage in the country.
While there have been general measures taken to control the spreading of malaria infection and treating it, eradication is something that’s not been worked on. So the Lancet report offers a unique suggestion for elimination of malaria- gene drives.
According to News18, gene drive is a method by which mosquitoes become resistant to infection, or produce only male offspring. If properly implemented, this’ll help in combating malaria, because it’s the female mosquitoes that transfer the parasite by biting. However, this can be a controversial move, because it involves modification of an organism’s DNA, and could have negative consequences on reproduction among the species.
Currently, Target Malaria, a non-profit research association is planning to release sterile mosquitoes in Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa that has the second highest cases of malaria in the world. They’ll help in busting myths for future gene drives and are a good measure to begin with. This technique can also be effective in India, and can eliminate malaria to ensure that people’s health is protected in at least one way.