Scientists move to breed anti-malaria mosquitoes

The Ministry of Health has listed 48 districts that have been heavily burdened by the malaria epidemic.

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UVRI, which started the research project in 2016, says it is in the process of returning the mosquito species from a US laboratory.

The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) says its project of breeding genetically engineered mosquitoes to control the malaria burden is in the final stages.

The scientists from UVRI, who started the research work of developing the mosquitoes in 2016, say they are in the process of returning the Ugandan mosquito species from a laboratory in the USA.

This was revealed in an anti-malaria sensitisation meeting held at UVRI last week.

Dr Martin Lukindo, one of the researchers, noted that mosquitoes can transmit malaria throughout the year and there are those that survive in dry areas.

He said they are embarking on developing sterile male mosquitoes, which are incapable of fertilising the female ones.

Another method, he said, is to develop mosquitoes where the female mosquitoes will only produce male species.

Dr Lukindo said the mosquito species, which is already modified ready for return to the country, is where the ability of the anopheles mosquitoes to produce female mosquitoes has been disrupted.

The purpose is to reduce the female malaria-causing mosquito population in the wild, he said.

The scientists hope to use gene drive technology that will enable the GM mosquitoes to carry the gene of maintaining anopheles mosquitoes to produce female ones from one generation to another.

Currently, scientists are collecting mosquito species across the county, which are kept in the insectarium at UVRI. They are studying their behaviour in regard to biting humans as well as mating.

The team is carrying out the research work jointly with scientists from Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana.

The regulatory affairs manager at Africa Target Malaria Project, Dr Charles Mugoya, noted that any time this year, the mosquitoes, whose genes are being engineered at the Centre for Disease Control in the USA, will be brought to Uganda ready for trial release.

The Ugandan scientists are working jointly with those in Imperial College London.

The team is targeting to release them on a number of islands in Lake Victoria where there is rapid multiplication of mosquitoes causing malaria.

Scientists have proved that one mosquito is able to lay up to 300 eggs at a go and once they mature, the female ones tend to spread malaria. The target is to reduce this occurrence.

According to Dr Mugoya, the research work is ongoing and it may take the scientists 10 years from now to release the GM mosquitoes.

He said they are working to ensure Uganda acquires a laboratory facility where the modification and mass production can be done.


According to the World Health Organisation, (WHO) every year, 200 million people die of malaria across the globe, with 90 percent of deaths from Africa. There are three mosquito species in Africa causing malaria; Anopheles gambiae, Anopheles arabiensis and Anopheles funestus The scientists are looking at the viability of releasing large numbers of genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild to influence future generations of those causing malaria.