Developing methods for driving beneficial genetic traits into vector populations


  • Prof Luke Alphey

    Pirbright Institute

Project summary

Mosquito-borne diseases cause severe morbidity and mortality around the world. Dengue is relentlessly increasing in incidence and severity, and chikungunya and Zika viruses have recently invaded the Americas. Genetic control methods potentially offer new, sustainable, environmentally friendly control measures. One possibility is to modify the wild mosquito population so that it is less able to transmit specific diseases. This would leave the mosquito population intact and would be a minimalist intervention in the ecosystem; one aspect of which is that no ‘empty niche’ would be left open for another vector species. Professor Alphey aims to develop methods to make such changes to wild populations, which will require that most of the mosquitoes in the target population carry the disease-resistance gene and continue to do so for many generations. The aim is to develop genetic systems that will persist in target populations, but not invade adjacent, semi-isolated populations. This would allow local action to be taken in modifying selected vector mosquito populations.