Gene Drive Supplement

TED-Ed Video Tackles Ethical Dilemmas of Eradicating Mosquitoes

February 22, 2023

As part of its Ethical Dilemma series, TED-Ed released a new video that explores how gene drive technologies could lead to the eradication of malaria mosquitoes and what that could mean for our ecosystems. The video, available on YouTube, guides viewers through how gene drives work, their potential for malaria eradication, and the ethical questions raised by gene drive research.

The video explains that mosquitoes, through the pathogens they carry, are responsible for more human deaths every year than any other animal, including other humans. However, very few of the 3,500 mosquito species transmit deadly diseases to humans. Scientists have been conducting experiments using engineered technologies called gene drives that could theoretically get rid of the most lethal mosquitoes. The video asks, should we eradicate mosquitoes?

Gene drive is a genetic phenomenon that occurs in nature and causes a selected trait to spread rapidly through a species via sexual reproduction over several generations. Researchers have been studying if it is possible and appropriate to harness gene drives to solve some global health and conservation challenges. An example of these studies was conducted in 2018, when scientists inserted a gene drive into mosquito eggs that made females sterile if they had two copies of the modified gene. Scientists achieved similar results in 2020 with a gene drive that made populations male-only.

Gene drives have shown powerful results in laboratory experiments. Before they are released into the wild, some questions must be answered, including the potential impact in non-target species or the effects of a mosquito population's collapse on ecosystems. It is also vital to answer who should decide whether to release gene drives. According to the video, it is essential that communities, scientists, regulators, and governments of countries most affected by mosquito-borne diseases be highly involved in the research and decision-making processes.

To learn more about gene drives, watch the video on the TED-Ed channel on YouTube.

You might also like: