This week was the launch of GeneConvene Global Collaborative Webinars - Engineered Gene Drives: State of Research. The first webinar took place September 9 with Professor Anthony James, Ph.D., from the University of California on the topic Gene-drive systems for mosquito population modification. Anthony James discussed the objectives of genetic control, including population suppression to reduce/eliminate mosquitoes, as well as population modification, which aims to change a mosquito’s ability to transmit pathogens. Prof. James noted that interest from his research group in population modification approaches was driven by their potential to have a sustainable impact on malaria elimination, while avoiding concerns about a possible empty ecological niche, while being stable in low population densities.

The Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) decided to again delay the Twenty-fourth Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA-24) and the Third Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI-3). In the Notification, the Secretariat highlighted that it is not safe to convene any large physical intergovernmental meeting this year due to COVID-19. CBD is considering options for virtual discussions on the planned dates in November, but details are yet to be released.

The increasing resistance of malaria parasites to existing drugs represents a threat to the progress made so far to control the disease. Recently, scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) found that the protein PfCRT, which is vital to drug resistance, can itself be a promising drug target.

The discovery opens the door for new therapies. By blocking the protein, researchers aim to restore the effects of antimalarial medicines. Malaria is one of the oldest and deadliest diseases of humankind. To make malaria elimination a reality, investments in science and innovation are crucial, as WHO and the Lancet Commission already emphasized in their reports.

Protected areas worldwide are effectively keeping invasive animals away, but most of them are at risk of invasions, says the new study from the Chinese Academy of Science. Researchers assessed almost 200,000 protected areas worldwide and only 10% of them were found to host any of the 894 terrestrial animal invasive species surveyed. However, almost all these areas are at risk - invasive species were found within 100km of the boundaries of 99% of them.

Artemisinin is the main component of the current antimalarial treatments recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Resistance to artemisinin is not new and has been reported in South-East Asia for more than a decade. Scientists have been monitoring the geographical distribution of artemisinin resistance since 2014, but they only recently observed a drug-resistant strain of the malaria parasite in Africa.

The research is available at Nature Medicine. Scientists analysed blood samples from patients in Rwanda and found a mutation of the parasite, resistant to artemisinin, in 7.4% of patients at one of the health centres they monitored. The findings represent a setback to the progress in the fight against malaria so far. In 2018, African countries reported 93% of the malaria cases worldwide (WHO).