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Mosquito CRISPR Control

A CRISPR-based approach may help keep biting mosquitos at bay, the Economist reports.

It notes that mosquitos can carry a range of diseases, including malaria and dengue fever, and that researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, have been examining whether CRISPR can improve a mosquito-control method known as sterile insect technique. Through that approach — which has been used on screwworm flies and fruit flies — sterile males are released into the wild to mate with female insects, but produce no offspring, leading to a population decline, it adds.

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, UCSB's Craig Montell and his colleagues report on how they used CRISPR-Cas9 to disrupt the B2t gene that affects male fertility among Aedes aegypti mosquitos. They reasoned that this approach might be better suited for mosquito control, as other mutagenic approaches used to render mosquitos infertile are nonspecific and have wider effects on their health. When they exposed wild-type female Ae. aegypti to both B2t mutant and wild-type males, they found a decrease in female fertility, suggesting this approach could be effective in limiting mosquito population sizes.

Montell tells the Economist that the results are encouraging, but that there is more work to do before any field trials.