By Dr. Abdoul-Azize Millogo, Geographic Information Systems Coordinator, Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé (IRSS), Target Malaria

Group Earth Observation (GEO) is an intergovernmental partnership that improves the availability, access, and use of earth observation data for a sustainable planet. The organization hosts an annual GEO Week; this year it was held in Accra, Ghana under the theme "Earth Observation and Health: Early Warning Systems and beyond." As a coordinator for Geographic Information System (GIS) for Target Malaria, I had the pleasure to present on the topic: “How earth observation data is used by Target Malaria” on behalf of the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research.

This event aimed to promote the One Health concept and highlight how Earth Observations can offer valuable insights into health decision-making. Earth Warning Systems, in particular the Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) can help prepare community stakeholders for strategic management of health activities and concerns.

Presentations at GeoWeek in Accra, Ghana. Photograph: Target Malaria

As a coordinator for Geographic Information System (GIS) for Target Malaria Burkina Faso at the Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé (IRSS), my research focuses on the dynamics of disease vector mosquitoes and the influence of geographical variables on the dynamics of vectors and diseases.

By Ana Kormos, Program Manager, University of California Malaria Initiative (UCMI)

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), whose mission is to reduce the worldwide burden of tropical infectious diseases, held its annual meeting in Seattle, from October 30 to November 3. The five-day educational conference was an opportunity for researchers, health practitioners and other relevant participants from the field to exchange knowledge on recent advances in tropical medicine, hygiene, and global health.

Tropical diseases such as malaria continue to be a public health challenge. Malaria is estimated to cause the death of a child almost every minute, despite ongoing efforts to reduce its burden. At the University of California Malaria Initiative (UCMI), we are exploring novel tools such as the use of genetic technologies to modify mosquito populations and contribute to malaria elimination. In partnership with the national Ministry of Health, we have been working in the Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe (STP), to collect and study the biology and ecology of malaria-carrying mosquitoes and develop genetically modified mosquitoes that are unable to transmit the malaria parasite.

UCMI's field team releases wild typed marked mosquitoes as part of Mark, Release, Recapture Studies completed this year. Photograph: UCMI

By J. Royden Saah, Program Coordinator, Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents (GBIRd)

Researchers at the University of Adelaide associated with the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents program (GBIRd) have made a great step forward in the development of a gene drive technology to control invasive mice. The technology – called t-CRISPR – leverages a naturally occurring gene drive to spread faulty-copies of a female fertility gene which overtime impact the mice population’s ability to reproduce. As mentioned by lead researcher and GBIRd member professor Paul Thomas, “this is the first time that a new genetic tool has been identified to suppress invasive mouse populations”.

The mechanism described in the study, published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), predicts that about 250 modified mice could eradicate an island population of 200,000 mice in around 20 years. The findings provide new reasons for optimism regarding the potential use of gene drive technologies as a complementary tool to help address the issue of invasive mice.

By Dr Dickson W. Lwetoijera, Ifakara Health Institute

Last week, from October 24-28, I attended the 20th International Congress for Tropical Medicine and Malaria (ICTMM 2020) at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC) in Thailand. The event, which is one of the largest tropical medicine conferences in the world, offers the opportunity for researchers, relevant experts, and other professionals to exchange knowledge and expertise in the field of malaria and tropical medicine. My presentation at this year’s congress was focused on highlighting the need to develop and invest in novel tools to fight malaria, as well as on providing an overview of some of the work being conducted towards this goal at the Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) in Tanzania, where I work.

By Dr Prasad Paradkar, Group Leader, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

As part of its efforts to contribute to an informed debate on gene drive, the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research conducted a series of video interviews with experts and researchers working on gene drive research. These attempt to explore some of the most common questions around gene drive technologies. In the video “Could gene flow from gene drive organisms cause harm to local ecosystems?” Prof Luke Alphey (formerly The Pirbright Institute) and I, discuss whether gene flow from a gene drive organism could have negative consequences on the ecosystem in which the gene drive is released.