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Djibouti Releases Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Malaria Surge

The Anopheles stephensi mosquito is resistant to insecticides, thrives in cities and bites during the day, making bednets no defence © BSIP SA/Alamy

DJIBOUTI CITY – Djibouti has released genetically engineered mosquitoes to combat a dramatic rise in malaria infections caused by an invasive mosquito species, officials said on Thursday.

The initiative, developed by biotechnology company Oxitec, comes as malaria cases in the small East African nation have surged from 27 in 2012 to over 70,000 in recent years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The spike is attributed to the arrival of Anopheles stephensi, a mosquito species from Asia.

“This technology is a potential game changer,” said Health Minister Ahmed Robleh Abdilleh in an interview with CNN. “We are in the pilot phase, but we believe it will significantly reduce malaria transmission.”

Anopheles stephensi has also been detected in neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia, raising regional health concerns. The species’ spread in the Horn of Africa poses a significant threat, health experts warn.

Oxitec’s technology targets female mosquitoes, which are primarily responsible for malaria transmission. The method has been described as “using mosquitoes to fight mosquitoes.”

The genetically engineered mosquitoes are designed to reduce the population of Anopheles stephensi by ensuring that their offspring do not survive to adulthood. The pilot program in Djibouti will be closely monitored to assess its effectiveness in reducing malaria cases.

The success of this initiative could pave the way for similar strategies in other regions battling invasive mosquito species and high malaria transmission rates, officials say.

© All East Africa

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