Each year more than 700,000 people die from vector-borne diseases (VBD) such as malaria, dengue, schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis. More than 80% of the world’s population live in areas at risk of at least one major vector-borne disease, and more than half are at risk of two or more. Taken together, these diseases are taking a huge toll on the economy and can hinder both rural and urban development.
WHO recognizes the urgent need for new tools to control VBD and supports the study of all potentially useful technologies, including genetically modified mosquitoes (GMM), to encourage innovation. A new statement released today at a WHO seminar highlights the WHO’s stance on the assessment and use of GMM to combat vector-borne diseases.
These diseases do not go away. We really need to think about new tools that could have an impact. “
Dr. John Reader, director of TDR, the special program for research and education in tropical diseases
Dr. John Reader presented the statement in the seminar.
In recent years, significant advances have been made in GMM approaches aimed at suppressing mosquito populations and reducing their susceptibility to infection as well as their ability to transmit disease-causing pathogens. These advances have led to an often polarized debate about the benefits and risks of genetically engineered mosquitoes.
Computer simulation modeling has shown that GMMs can be a valuable new tool in eradicating malaria and fighting diseases transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, according to the new WHO statement. However, the WHO warns that the use of GMM raises concerns and questions about ethics, safety, governance, affordability and cost-effectiveness that need to be addressed.
The statement indicates that GMM research should be carried out gradually and supported by clear governance mechanisms to assess any health, environmental and environmental impact. It underlines that any effective approach to fighting vector-borne diseases requires the robust and meaningful commitment of communities. This is particularly important for large-scale control measures such as GMM, as the risks and benefits can affect large parts of the population.
Countries and other stakeholders are invited to provide feedback on the new opinion by contacting WHO at: [email protected]
Despite the growing threat of vector-borne diseases to individuals, families and societies, the ethical issues raised by VBDs have received limited attention. Recognizing this loophole, WHO has issued new guidelines to assist national VBD control programs in their efforts to identify and respond to key ethical issues.
The new guidelines, entitled “Ethics and Vector-borne Diseases,” were released today along with the opinion on GMMs. The guidelines are based on a multidisciplinary framework and emphasize the critical role of community engagement in designing and implementing an appropriate, sustainable public health response.
The World Health Organization