Developing gene drive technologies to eradicate invasive rodents from islands

C. M. Leitschuh, D. Kanavy, G. A. Backus, R. X. Valdez, M. Serr, E. A. Pitts, D. Threadgill and J. Godwin,  Journal of Responsible Innovation,  5:S121-S138. 2018.

Island ecosystems are highly threatened by invasive rats and mice. Currently, the only effective technology for eradicating rodents from islands is toxicants. Though effective, they are expensive and have high failure rates. They are not species-specific and are potentially dangerous to humans. Gene drive technology is one alternative to toxicants for rodent eradication. Gene drive methods of rodent eradication offer an alternative to killing that has the potential to be more species-specific, more humane, and more biologically safe for use around humans. Technologies in development aim to apply either natural meiotic drive or clustered regularly interspersed short palindromic repeats to influence offspring development so that all offspring are phenotypically male, eventually creating a population that is not reproductively viable. Implementing this technology would involve releasing laboratory-developed engineered mice into wild populations. Some areas for further research include assessing the ecological effects of releasing engineered mice, the potential risks for the accidental or deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into mainland mouse populations, and the social, ethical, and regulatory acceptability of the technology.