Diabaté engaged in developing innovative technology to eradicate malaria

The adversity endured by African Abdallah Diabaté during a severe bout of malaria at the age of five, coupled with his triumphant survival, became the driving force behind his commitment to eliminate the disease.

Currently leading the Department of Medical Entomology and Parasitology at the Health Sciences Research Institute in Burkina Faso, Diabaté is actively engaged in developing innovative technology aimed at eradicating mosquito species responsible for transmitting malaria by altering their genetic makeup.

Diabaté emphasized the imperative to create new tools for malaria control, citing the challenges posed by insecticide resistance in various mosquito types, particularly those transmitting malaria, despite the efficacy of mosquito nets. He expressed optimism about the transformative potential of his approach, characterizing it as a “game-changer” in the battle against malaria.

Malaria, transmitted through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, is the target of Diabaté’s gene drive technology. By releasing genetically modified sterile male mosquitoes into the environment, this technology aims to impede the reproduction of female mosquitoes responsible for malaria transmission, leading to a decline in their numbers and ultimately halting malaria transmission.

Diabaté highlighted the advantages of gene drive technology, emphasizing its sustainability and affordability compared to traditional interventions. Despite the promising prospects, he acknowledged that the implementation of this technology in Africa might take a few more years.

While Diabaté’s work has received recognition from health authorities beyond Burkina Faso, concerns about the environmental impact of gene drive technology persist. Organizations like Save Our Seeds have expressed reservations, emphasizing the unpredictable consequences of manipulating or eradicating species within ecosystems.

In response to such concerns, Diabaté assured that specific issues would be considered during the project’s development. Malaria’s devastating toll in Burkina Faso, where the entire population is at risk, underscores the urgency of finding effective and sustainable solutions. The World Health Organization reports that malaria claimed approximately 19,000 lives in Burkina Faso in 2021, contributing to the broader challenge faced by the African region, which bears the world’s heaviest malaria burden.

Despite successful past interventions, including the use of insecticide-treated nets, the WHO has noted persistently high malaria deaths and increasing cases since 2015. Contributing factors include the high cost of interventions and biological threats fostering drug and insecticide resistance in mosquitoes.

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