There are compelling reasons to think long and hard about how vector-borne diseases can be controlled because we see signs that our current methods and systems may not be completely up to the task. Increases in Dengue fever and its occurrence in areas once free of the mosquito-borne virus and the spread of mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus are just two notable examples of the continuing challenges facing those involved in public health research and development.
During the last twenty years striking advances in technologies for genetically modifying insects have been developed and used in creative ways for the purposes of controlling mosquitoes directly or their abilities to serve as vectors of human pathogens and parasites. Some of these genetically modified mosquitoes are making their way to the field as part of some mosquito population suppression and eradication efforts – all outside the US – e.g. Cayman Islands, Brazil.
Alphey and Alphey (2014) boil down this multifaceted and highly technical area of insect biology into five key points that provides a very short synopsis of this emerging and controversial area of insect control. The authors have first-hand experience with the development and release of transgenic Aedes aegypti for the purposes of population suppression and are affiliated with Oxitec Limited of Milton Park, Oxford, UK, a company developing and deploying insect genetic technologies for the purposes of insect population suppression or eradication.
Alphey and Alphey (2014)’s five things to know are: 1) why and how to use genetically modified (GM) vectors for vector control, 2) how GM mosquitoes are made, 3) progress in the field, 4) it’s more than just genetics (but ecology, population genetics etc), 5) applications and limitation and knowing what species or population will make a good target for GM-based strategies.
While experts familiar with this area of insect genetics will find this brief essay very basic, others with less familiarity with the field will find this to be a good point of entry to this fast-moving and emerging field of insect biology.
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