A genetically modified organism could end malaria and save millions of lives — if we decide to use it

Kevin Esvelt wants me to know that if I fuck up this article, 25,000 children could end up dead.

Esvelt is a biologist at MIT and the first person to formulate a technology known as a CRISPR gene drive, a gene editing application that represents humanity’s single best chance to eradicate malaria.

Somewhere between 438,000 and 720,000 people were killed by the parasite in 2015. Seventy-two percent of those were kids younger than 5, and nearly 90 percent were in sub-Saharan Africa. Many more people infected with malaria don’t die but suffer a painful and temporarily disabling infection nonetheless. In 2015, anywhere from 187 million to 222 million people were infected. That’s about 3 percent of all humans on Earth, every year.

We have eliminated malaria from the rich world; it used to be endemic to France just as it is to Mali today. And now, with CRISPR gene drives, we have the potential to wipe it out globally and save millions of lives.

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