Transgenic mosquitoes and the fight against malaria: managing technology push in a turbulent GMO world.
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Genetic modification (GM) of mosquitoes (which renders them genetically modified organisms, GMOs) offers opportunities for controlling malaria. Transgenic strains of mosquitoes have been developed and evaluation of these to 1) replace or suppress wild vector populations and 2) reduce transmission and deliver public health gains are an imminent prospect. The transition of this approach from confined laboratory settings to open field trials in disease-endemic countries (DECs) is a staged process that aims to maximize the likelihood of epidemiologic benefits while minimizing potential pitfalls during implementation. Unlike conventional approaches to vector control, application of GM mosquitoes will face contrasting expectations of multiple stakeholders, the management of which will prove critical to safeguard support and avoid antagonism, so that potential public health benefits can be fully evaluated. Inclusion of key stakeholders in decision-making processes, transfer of problem-ownership to DECs, and increased support from the wider malaria research community are important prerequisites for this. It is argued that the many developments in this field require coordination by an international entity to serve as a guiding coalition to stimulate collaborative research and facilitate stakeholder involvement. Contemporary developments in the field of modern biotechnology, and in particular GM, requires competencies beyond the field of biology, and the future of transgenic mosquitoes will hinge on the ability to govern the process of their introduction in societies in which perceived risks may outweigh rational and responsible involvement.