NEPAD Agency convened a meeting of experts in the East African Community (EAC) region to consult and discuss the potential that emerging technologies, including gene drives, can offer in the elimination of malaria in Africa.
It is a fact that Malaria is number one killer disease that takes the lives of many people in Africa. In 2015, there were 212 million new cases of malaria reported worldwide, 90% of which were from WHO African Region. Out of the estimated 429 000 malaria deaths worldwide in the same year, 92% occurred in the African region.
Various vector control interventions have been implemented for many years with limited success in eliminating the disease. Interventions such as, indoor residual spraying (IRS) and insecticide treated bed nets (ITNs) have been employed but have been hampered by resurgence of resistance of mosquitoes against the chemicals.
The consultation meeting held from 20-22 June 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya, under the leadership of Prof. Aggrey Ambali. The meeting offered a window of opportunity for experts in the EAC region to put their minds together to discuss the new technology on gene drives as an additional intervention to complement the existing malaria control efforts.
The environmental, agricultural, biosafety and health experts, regulators and scientists were drawn from twelve (12) countries and regional economic communities namely; Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and the East African Community Secretariat. The partners present in the meeting included; Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre (DDPSC); International Life Sciences Institute Research Foundation (ILIS); Foundation for the National Institute of Health( FNIH); Target Malaria, BioInnovate, Ifakara Research Centre, Pan African Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA) and Africa Academy of Sciences (AAS).
The meeting took a holistic approach of looking at how the existing legal and institutional frameworks should be strengthened to regulate the current and emerging vector borne diseases in a sustainable manner. The workshop provided an opportunity for experts to consider, through a case study approach, the ways a gene-drive strategy in Anopheles gambiae for mitigating malaria could be implemented safely without additional harm either for the environment or for human and animal health.