The scientists used simple population genetics models to explore the utility of this gene-transfer system, and found that it can work under a wide range of conditions. It requires a high frequency of gene transfer, which is desirable because it means that genetically altered insects released accidentally are unlikely to persist in the wild. Furthermore, it means that those released intentionally can be spatially confined and that the altered genes can be removed from a population through sustained release of wild-type insects. The scientists found few technical barriers to implementing this system, increasing prospects for engineering and testing in the coming years.
"Mosquito bites can mean more than an itchy annoyance," said Mark Johnston, Editor-in-Chief of the journal GENETICS. "For far too many people, they can lead to life-threatening diseases. But mosquitoes play a role in the greater ecosystem, and completely eradicating them may have unintended consequences that could be worse than the diseases they carry. This study is exciting because it suggests a way to control mosquito populations without pesticides, and in a way that gives us control of the process."
|Contact: Tracey DePellegrin Connelly|
Genetics Society of America