Transmission Zero is an international research programme that involves partners from Tanzania including the Ifakara Health Institute and the National Institute of Medical Research as well as at researchers from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom. We believe that malaria eradication is possible and that the technologies to achieve it are already here now.
Gene drive technology has been proposed as an area-wide genetic control strategy for eliminating malaria transmission. Transmission Zero develops gene drives that could be deployed to modify the genetic makeup of disease vector populations i.e. rendering mosquitoes unable to transmit the deadly malaria parasite to humans. This approach termed population replacement relies on the spread of an anti-malarial trait by preferential inheritance. It requires a robust molecular mechanism to interfere with Plasmodium development in genetically modified mosquitoes. The propagation of this antimalarial cargo by gene drive within large mosquito populations can then reduce or abolish malaria transmission to humans. Gene drive technology is egalitarian since everyone within the protected area is equally protected, irrespective of wealth, ethnicity, gender, or education.
IHI maintains the mosquito infection facility that consists of a biosafety level 3 laboratory and a plant room, both built inside shipping containers. Using the this platform we produce and test mosquitoes that are unable to transmit malaria from one person to another under containement. We use two sources of parasites to infect mosquitoes and evaluate our interventions. We either culture parasites in the lab or sample them directly from infected people. By sampling parasites directly from people we ensure that any interventions we develop can be effective against all different types of malaria parasites circulating in our community.