The Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, has funded UK Company called Oxitec for a few years now. Back in 2010, he funded Oxitec to create modified mosquitoes and tackle the Zika virus and dengue fever.
This year, Bill Gates funded the “Friendly Mosquitoes” project with $4 million to wipe out malaria.
The Science Behind Genetically Modified Mosquitoes
Oxitec creates mosquitoes in their lab with modified genes. Then, they experiment and see if the new population of mosquitoes can destroy the ones that carry malaria.
Malaria kills 445,000 people a year and is spread by the female mosquito bites.
The lab can create genetically-modified male mosquitoes, release them into the wild and let them mate with the females. The males will pass on a self-limiting gene, meaning that the female offspring will die before they become adults.
Male mosquitoes do not bite or need to feed on blood. But for females to produce eggs, they need to feed on blood. Mosquitoes bite when they become adults, so the project allows mosquitoes to live until reaching maturity. After that period, they die off.
The male mosquitoes that would be genetically-modified can mate with the wild females and pass on the gene “for up to 10 generations.”
The new strain of their “Friendly Mosquitoes” will be ready for trials within the next two years.
Gates has tried to help fight against malaria since he created the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, spending almost $2 billion on finding a way to deal with the issue. In the past years, since 2015, the disease-carrying parasite has become resistant to drugs that treat malaria.
Although Bill Gates has supported Oxitec’s work for many years, a charity group called Friends of the Earth have criticized the UK company. They argue that eradicating mosquitoes is not the way to solve the problem and that it can interfere with the ecosystem, causing more harm than good.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.