Invasive Feral Cats Could Be Wiped Out Using Genetic Modification

Jess Thomson,  Newsweek,  2023.

Hordes of feral cats terrorizing native species in Australia could be combatted using a special type of genetic engineering, scientists have suggested. The cats, which came to Australia via European colonizers, regularly kill native mammals, birds, and reptiles, including woylies, quolls, and even penguins. The feral cats now number over six million, and are responsible for the extinction of at least 28 species across the country, threatening countless more. This has spurred numerous control measures to be announced, including poison, trapping, and cat curfews.

“Gene drives literally ‘drive’ modified genes through a species by ensuring they are inherited from generation to generation, eventually resulting in the whole species having engineered genetic traits,” Andrew D. Maynard, a professor of Advanced Technology Transitions at Arizona State University, told Newsweek. “It’s a technique that is specific to species that mate and reproduce sexually, and works by ensuring that engineered genetic traits are inherited by every single offspring resulting from mating.”

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