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首批转基因蚊子将“袭击”非洲村庄

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非洲一个村庄嫌蚊子不够多,近日居然放飞了一万只蚊子。其实,这一万只蚊子可不是普通蚊子,而是首批转基因不育雄蚊,目标是对抗疟疾。此次放蚊还只是实验,真正厉害的“特种蚊”武器还在后头呢。

A new front has been opened up in the battle against malaria with the release of the first ever genetically modified mosquitoes in Africa.

有史以来第一批转基因蚊子将在非洲释放,开辟了抗击疟疾的新战线。

Some 10,000 sterile male mosquitoes will be released in Burkina Faso, a country at the front line of the war against the disease. Last year there were 9.8m cases of malaria here, resulting in almost 4,000 deaths.

约一万只不育雄蚊将在抗击疟疾的第一线——布基纳法索释放。去年这个国家发生了980万例疟疾,造成近4000人丧生。

Malaria is the biggest killer of children under five in Africa and the most up-to-date figures show that there were 216 million malaria cases worldwide, and an estimated 445,000 malaria deaths.

疟疾是非洲5岁以下儿童的最大杀手,最新数据显示,全世界发生的疟疾病例有2.16亿,预计导致的死亡人数大44.5万。

This is the first step in a program to dramatically reduce the mosquito population in the country, and hopefully beyond. The initial release of the mosquitoes will enable researchers to gather more data about the longevity and dispersal of the insects, as well as how they interact with the natural insect population.

这是该国计划大幅减少蚊子数量并借此抗击疟疾项目的第一步。第一批释放的蚊子将能帮助研究人员收集到有关蚊子寿命和分布的更多数据,以及它们同天然蚊子相互影响的情况。

Researchers also hope to gain operational experience and improve understanding of their work among regulators and locals.

研究人员还希望从中获得操作经验,增进监管部门和当地人对他们工作的理解。

"It’s a very important step for building knowledge and experience," said Delphine Thizy, director of stakeholder engagement for Target Malaria, the not-for-profit research consortium behind the project.

开展这一项目的非盈利研究联合会“瞄准疟疾”的董事长戴尔芬·蒂齐说:“这是构建知识和经验非常重要的一步。”

"Although this tool will not have an impact on malaria, it’s an important part of the fight and a conservative way to learn more about genetically modified mosquitoes.”

“尽管这个转基因工具对疟疾不会有什么影响,但却是抗疟疾斗争的重要一部分,也是获知关于转基因蚊子更多信息的一个保守方式。”

The insects will be released in Bana, a village in the western part of the country close to the scientists’ research laboratory. Once they have been set free researchers will closely monitor the mosquitoes for 10 days, and on a monthly basis for up to a year, and hope to demonstrate to regulators that they behave as expected.

这些蚊子将在该国西部一个名叫巴纳的村庄释放,放蚊地点临近科学家的研究实验室。蚊子被释放后,科学家将对其密切监控10天,然后在接下来的一年里每月监控一次,希望能向监管部门呈现预期的结果。

The exact timing of the release depends on how quickly scientists can bring enough modified mosquitoes to adulthood, as well as local weather conditions.

释放蚊子的准确时间取决于科学家将足够的转基因蚊子培育成年的速度,以及当地的天气条件。

The experiment is the first step in a three phased program to develop “gene drive” mosquitoes - a project that has received $70 million of funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

这个培育“基因驱动”蚊子的项目分为三个阶段,这个实验是第一步。该项目从比尔和梅琳达·盖茨基金会获得了7000万美元(4.8亿元人民币)的资助。

The eventual hope is that male mosquitoes, modified so that 90 percent of their offspring are also male, will be released in the region. This would dramatically reduce the overall population as well as reducing malaria incidence, as it is the female mosquitoes which transmit the disease.

该项目的最终目标是在该地区释放这种新型转基因雄蚊,它们繁衍的后代90%为雄性。这将能大幅减少蚊子数量,并降低疟疾发病率,因为传播疟疾的是雌蚊子。

"The beauty of this approach for malaria control is that it’s very cost efficient, as you don’t need to constantly release more mosquitoes,” said Ms Thizy. “But that is a long term aim.”

蒂齐女士说:“这种控制疟疾方法的精妙之处在于非常节省成本,因为你不需要持续地放更多蚊子。不过这是一个长期目标。”

While Target Malaria have faced some skepticism about the approach within Burkina Faso, this has mainly been from farmers who are concerned about GM crops.

“瞄准疟疾”机构的放蚊计划在布基纳法索国内遭到了一些质疑,这些质疑声主要来自担心转基因作物的农民。

"We’ve had amazing support from the local community, and ahead of our regulatory application they gave us their approval in a local consultation”, said Ms Thizy.

蒂齐女士说:“我们从当地社区得到了大力支持,在向监管部门提交申请之前,当地民众就经过协商同意了。”

As for safety, the mosquitoes released at this stage have been confirmed to be no more dangerous than the natural population, and cannot pass modified genes on to humans.

至于安全方面,在本阶段释放的蚊子经证实不会比天然蚊子更危险,也不会把修改后的基因传给人类。

"Mosquitoes are one of the most dangerous species on earth, causing the highest number of deaths,” said Ms Thizy. “So of course this has risks. But genetically modified mosquitoes are no more risky than natural counterparts, and have no added toxicity.”

蒂齐女士说:“蚊子是地球上最危险的物种之一,导致的死亡人数最多。所以释放蚊子当然有风险。但是转基因蚊子并不比天然蚊子更危险,也不会携带更多毒素。”

英文来源:每日电讯报

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