A century ago, BirdLife International started documenting the status of the world’s birds in an effort to identify the species at most risk of extinction, the most urgent threats to them, and the actions required to tackle these threats. The organization’s latest State of the World’s Birds report shows that bird species are moving progressively faster towards extinction, with one in eight bird species currently in danger of going extinct.

The main pressures causing these losses are mostly driven by human action, and include: agricultural expansion and intensification, climate change, invasive alien species, logging, and overexploitation. Most species are impacted by a combination of these threats, and some threats, such as climate change, exacerbate others.

According to BirdLife, seabirds, especially members of the albatross family, are becoming increasingly threatened, and at a faster rate globally than all other groups of birds.

The spread of Anopheles stephensi (An. Stephensi) mosquitoes poses a significant threat to malaria elimination in Africa, according to a 2019 vector alert from the World Health Organization (WHO). This malaria vector, formerly only seen in South Asia and parts of the Arabian Peninsula, was detected for the first time in Africa in 2012, in the city of Djibouti. Over the last decade, An. stephensi has been expanding, with cases reported in five different countries on the African continent. To respond to this challenge, the WHO recently announced a new initiative aimed at halting the spread of this invasive mosquito species in the region. 

By Dr Robyn Raban, Research Data Analyst, The Akbari Lab, University of California San Diego

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. In one of these videos - “Why do we need to do field releases of gene drive technologies as part of the R&D process?” - Dr Mamadou Coulibaly of Target Malaria and I tackle the importance of field trials in gene drive research.

Gene drive technologies have the potential to support the prevention of diseases such as malaria and dengue. For many years, gene drive technologies for vector control have been studied in the laboratory. However, these laboratory studies are not fully reflective of the conditions these technologies might eventually encounter in the field: field conditions are complex, highly variable and more stressful to gene drive organisms than those encountered in the laboratory.

Advances in life sciences and technologies can bring enormous benefits to our health, our societies and our environment. They pave the way for the creation of innovative tools and treatments that can address existing challenges in these fields. However, to realize the full benefits of these advances, it is essential that any potential risks deriving from their use are also recognized and mitigated.

On September 13, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the Global guidance framework for the responsible use of the life sciences, a document which aims to raise awareness of the value of biorisk management and provide a set of values and tools to support Member States and other relevant stakeholders in preventing and mitigating biorisks. The document is the first global, technical and normative framework for dual-use research – i.e. research that is intended to provide a clear benefit, but which could be misapplied to do harm.

By Delphine Thizy, Coordinator of the francophone working group at the RBM Partnership to End Malaria and Stakeholder Engagement Senior Adviser at Target Malaria

Twenty years ago, The Global Fund was created to fight what were then the world's deadliest infectious diseases: HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria. Since then, the partnership has invested more than US$55 billion, saving over 50 million lives and cutting the combined death rate from the three diseases by more than half in the countries where it invests. Ahead of its Seventh Replenishment cycle, The Global Fund is calling on the world to mobilize US$18 billion to save 20 million lives. Reaching this target will mean reducing malaria cases by 66% by 2026.

Photograph: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria 

Even before the world was shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, progress against malaria had stalled. Although the worst-case scenario projected by the World Health Organization (WHO) was avoided, according to the 2021 World malaria report, there were still an estimated 241 million malaria cases and 627 000 malaria deaths worldwide in 2020, with over 96% of these deaths occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we mobilize to ensure The Global Fund’s replenishment target is met and that we can address this challenge.