Gene drives for the extinction of wild metapopulations

Jason W. Olejarz, Martin A. Nowak,  Journal of Theoretical Biology,  2023.

Population-suppressing gene drives may be capable of extinguishing wild populations, with proposed applications in conservation, agriculture, and public health. However, unintended and potentially disastrous consequences of release of drive-engineered individuals are extremely difficult to predict. We propose a model for the dynamics of a sex ratio-biasing drive, and using simulations, we show that failure of the suppression drive is often a natural outcome due to stochastic and spatial effects. We further demonstrate rock–paper–scissors dynamics among wild-type, drive-infected, and extinct populations that can persist for arbitrarily long times. Gene drive-mediated extinction of wild populations entails critical complications that lurk far beyond the reach of laboratory-based studies. Our findings help in addressing these challenges.


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