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Drive the Mosquitoes Away

A group of researchers thinks that gene drives could be used to eliminate Zika virus-spreading mosquitoes, Stat News reports.

The University of California, Irvine's Anthony James and his colleagues want to develop a gene drive that would spread an undesirable trait through Aedes aegypti mosquito populations in South and Central America as well as in the Caribbean, decimating them.

James and his colleagues previously showed that they could develop such a drive to create mosquitoes whose immune systems block the transmission of malaria-causing parasites. But as Zika-carrying mosquitoes also transmit dengue and occasionally yellow fever, he says the way forward there is to develop a gene drive that makes the mosquitoes sterile.

"It doesn't make sense to build a mosquito resistant to Zika if it could still transmit dengue," James tells Stat News. "You want to go for population suppression."

However, James notes that to do so in time to stop the spread of the virus, he'd need to get funding quickly, something that Stat News notes may be a stumbling block.

"If we were funded, we could do it now and have it ready in less than a year," he adds. "It then would have to go through the field trials, but at least we would be working on something with a good chance of helping."