Gene drive blocks malaria transmission in mosquitoes

labonline,  labonline,  2020.

Employing a strategy known as ‘population modification’, which involves using a CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive system to introduce genes preventing parasite transmission into mosquito chromosomes, University of California (UC) researchers have made a major advance in the use of genetic technologies to control the transmission of malaria parasites. Their work has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Adriana Adolfi, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), collaborated with colleagues at UCI, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego who had been working on CRISPR-based gene drive systems for making mosquito vectors resistant to transmitting malaria parasites by increasing gene drive effectiveness in female mosquito progeny. The team’s original gene drive, developed in 2015 for the Indo-Pakistani malaria vector mosquito Anopheles stephensi, was the first demonstration of a CRISPR-based gene drive in mosquitoes.

In that first study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the gene drive was transmitted to about 99% of progeny when the parent in which the gene drive was inserted was a male, but only 60–70% of offspring when the parent in which the gene drive was inserted was a female. A significant number of drive-resistant chromosomes are generated in females; this, in principle, could allow those females to continue to transmit parasites.

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