Researchers at the University of California in San Diego, through advances in CRISPR-based genetic engineering, have created a new system that can control mosquito populations responsible for infecting millions of people every year with debilitated diseases.
The new Precision Sterile Bug Technique, or pgSIT, alters in the Aedes aegypti (the species of mosquito responsible for the spread of diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya and Zi
Professor. Omar Akbari, professor of biological science at the UC San Diego, explained: “PgSIT is a new scalable genetic control system that uses a CRISPR-based approach to design mosquitoes that can suppress populations. Males do not transmit diseases, so the idea is that when you release more and more sterile males, you can suppress the population without relying on harmful chemicals and insecticides.”
The system is also self-limiting and is not expected to persist or spread into the environment, two important safety features that should make this technology preferable to the current. According to Professor. Akbari the pgSIT system could be implemented by distributing eggs from sterile males and females unable to fly in the target places where the spread of pathogens transmitted by mosquitoes occurs.
In the research, published in Nature Communications, scientists observed: “Supported by mathematical models, we empirically demonstrated that pgSIT males released into the environment can compete, suppress and even eliminate mosquito populations. This technology could be used on the ground and adapted to many vectors, to control wild populations so as to reduce diseases safely, controllable and reversiblely.”