Gene drives, is a new technique that could permanently change the way we deal with pests and invasive species that carry disease. This new technique could help keep some of the most damaging species under control.
A new study at the imperial College London outlines a new genetic method that will keep tabs on mosquito populations, who are some of the heaviest offenders in spreading dangerous diseases (such as malaria and dengue fever).
The new system allows researchers to insert a gene into a specific population allowing for a certain trait to be expressed after its spread rapidly. Currently the gene drive has not been tested in the wild yet, however in trial runs on lab populations it has proven quite effective.
In order to achieve the goal of controlling populations they will have to successfully wipe out a population with a single gene (crash drive). Researchers are working on a gene crash drive to destroy the X chromosome in mosquitos’ sperm cells. Doing so would effectively eliminate mosquitos as vectors for disease.
When female mosquitos inherit a crash drive from both of its parents, the mosquito becomes infertile. This would allow scientists to suppress mosquito populations to levels that do not support malaria transmission.
Some controversy has risen about the possibility of a gene drive being unintentionally released into the wild. Despite the concern, this new system presents a serious opportunity to curb the spread of infectious disease.