Genetic approaches to reducing vector competence of Aedes aegypti for chikungunya virus


  • Prof Luke Alphey

    Pirbright Institute

  • Prof Andres Merits

    University of Tartu

  • Prof John Fazakerley

    Pirbright Institute

  • Dr Rennos Fragkoudis

    Pirbright Institute

Project summary

Dengue, chikunguya and other mosquito-borne viral diseases carry significant morbidity and mortality and there are few licensed drugs or vaccines available for these diseases. However, the dependence of these viruses on specific mosquito species, combined with recent advances in mosquito synthetic biology, has the potential to provide new approaches.

Aedes aegypti is a key mosquito species for the transmission of many viruses and we will engineer it by reducing its ability to transmit viruses. We will focus on the chikungunya virus, which is rapidly becoming a global threat, though successful development would be significant for a much wider range of viruses. We will pursue three approaches in parallel which will mitigate the risk that one of these approaches may not fully achieve its design goals. It will also provide multiple independent means to interfere with virus transmission, which in combination would greatly reduce the possibility of virus escape mutants. Two of these approaches aim to make mosquito cells more resistant to incoming viruses, the other aims to kill cells upon infection so that they are unable to support virus transmission. Each of these approaches is inspired by natural anti-virus defence mechanisms and they are based on our collective track record in molecular virology and mosquito synthetic biology.

Our findings will help develop new treatments and vaccines to help control the transmission of the chikungunya virus.