By Bren Ram, Communications Manager, Island Conservation

Taking place from February 26 to March 3, Invasive Species Awareness Week is an occasion to raise awareness of the impact of invasive alien species on biodiversity and the importance of addressing this issue. Defined as species whose introduction and/or spread outside their natural past or present distribution threatens biological diversity, invasive alien species (IAS) are a threat to nature, economies, food security, and human health worldwide.

Island ecosystems, which harbor over 20% of our planet’s biodiversity, are particularly vulnerable. 90% of global extinctions on islands have been attributed mainly to IAS, according to the latest findings from IPBES’ Thematic Assessment Report on Invasive Alien Species and their Control. But the same conditions that make them vulnerable—the uniqueness of their ecosystems and their relative isolation—also produce the conditions for dramatic recovery.

By Joshua Ang, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of York

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are known vectors of several diseases, including dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika, which impact millions of people worldwide each year. The effectiveness of existing insecticide-based methods to control this mosquito is threatened by growing insecticide resistance, underscoring the need to develop new approaches. The advent of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing has reshaped the research and development landscape of new potential vector control tools, leading researchers to explore novel approaches, such as gene drive technologies.

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By Bakara Dicko, Stakeholder Engagement Lead, African Centre for Excellence in Molecular Engineering

From 2012 to 2023, the Malaria Research and Training Center (MRTC), based out of the University of Sciences, Techniques and Technologies of Bamako (USTTB), was part of the Target Malaria research consortium working towards developing novel gene drive-based tools for controlling populations of malaria vector mosquitoes.

As part of this work, Target Malaria Mali undertook a range of engagement activities with the communities where research was conducted and with other stakeholders nationally. These activities were meant to ensure that the project’s activities took place with the agreement of the communities, and that communities were able to play a role in shaping the project’s approach to ensure that its eventual outcomes were in line with their needs and concerns.

An interview with Dr. Nicole Page, Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

February 11 marks
International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. For the occasion, we spoke to Dr. Nicole Page, Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, about her journey to become a scientist, her current role and her advice to girls and women considering a career in STEM.

January 30 is World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day, an occasion to shed light on the 20 diseases and disease groups whose public health burden is often neglected by authorities and decision-making bodies. NTDs pose a significant threat to the health and well-being of more than 1.6 billion people globally, with the most vulnerable communities being disproportionately affected. Remarkably, 80% of this burden falls on the shoulders of just 16 countries.

The last few years witnessed several outbreaks of NTDs, including dengue, chikungunya, and scabies. Dengue, a viral infection transmitted primarily through infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito, has experienced a notable spread. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2023 saw a global surge in dengue cases, marked by a significant increase in the number, scale, and simultaneous occurrence of multiple outbreaks. The WHO’s recent assessment highlighted the high global risk of a dengue epidemic spread, considering the increasing risk of transmission and the upsurge in cases and deaths. The re-emergence of dengue and its unprecedented worldwide spread are linked to various factors, including shifts in weather patterns due to climate change.