Genetically modified mosquitoes have been released in Burkina Faso as part of an anti-malaria campaign.
While some critics have raised concerns, the scientists involved said the release, which was the first of its kind in Africa, represented a very important milestone.
Burkina Faso’s Research Institute of Health Sciences, a government-sponsored institution, released male genetically modified mosquitoes in the south-western town of Bana.
It is part of a project funded by Target Malaria, a research consortium led by Imperial College in London.
While the release was approved by the country’s biosafety agency, critics have raised concerns about the risks involved and questioned the validity of the project saying it is not expected to deliver any benefits for malaria control.
Target Malaria says the release itself is not intended to reduce the incidence of malaria but says it will enable them to collect important data to inform their research.
The Research Institute says the mosquito release conforms to all ethical and regulatory requirements and that it was approved by the community during consultations.
Malaria killed more than 4,000 people in Burkina Faso last year and affected more than 12,000.
In May, a separate study in Burkina Faso showed that a fungus – genetically enhanced to produce spider toxin – could rapidly kill huge numbers of the mosquitoes that spread malaria.