Genetic pest management and the background genetics of release strains

P. T. Leftwich, L. G. Spurgin, T. Harvey-Samuel, C. J. E. Thomas, L. C. Paladino, M. P. Edgington and L. Alphey,  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,  376:20190805. 2020.

Genetic pest management (GPM) methods involve releasing modified versions of a pest species to mate with wild pests in the target area. Proposed for a wide range of applications in public health, agriculture and conservation, most progress has been made with pest insects. Offspring of the released modified insects and wild pests carry the modification—which might be transgenes, artificially introduced Wolbachia or genetic damage from radiation, for example—but they also carry a complete haploid genome from their laboratory-reared parent, as well as one from their wild parent. Unless these F1 hybrids are completely unable to reproduce, further mating will lead to introgression of DNA sequences from the release strain into the wild population. We discuss issues around strain selection and the potential consequences of such introgression. We conclude that such introgression is probably harmless in almost all circumstances, and could, in theory, provide specific additional benefits to the release programme. We outline population monitoring approaches that could be used, going forward, to determine how background genetics may affect GPM. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Novel control strategies for mosquito-borne diseases’.

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