Monitoring Needs for Gene Drive Mosquito Projects: Lessons From Vector Control Field Trials and Invasive Species

G. Rašić, N. F. Lobo, E. H. Jeffrey Gutiérrez, C. H. Sánchez and J. M. Marshall,  Frontiers in Genetics,  12:780327. 2022.

As gene drive mosquito projects advance from contained laboratory testing to semi-field testing and small-scale field trials, there is a need to assess monitoring requirements to: i) assist with the effective introduction of the gene drive system at field sites, and ii) detect unintended spread of gene drive mosquitoes beyond trial sites, or resistance mechanisms and non-functional effector genes that spread within trial and intervention sites. This is of particular importance for non-localized gene drive projects, as the potential scale of intervention means that monitoring is expected to be more costly than research, development and deployment.

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Regarding monitoring needs for population replacement systems, lessons may be learned from experiences with Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes, and for population suppression systems, from experiences with releases of genetically sterile male mosquitoes. For population suppression systems, assessing monitoring requirements for tracking population size and detecting rare resistant alleles are priorities, while for population replacement systems, allele frequencies must be tracked, and pressing concerns include detection of gene drive alleles with non-functional effector genes, and resistance of pathogens to functional effector genes. For spread to unintended areas, open questions relate to the optimal density and placement of traps and frequency of sampling in order to detect gene drive alleles, drive-resistant alleles or non-functional effector genes while they can still be effectively managed. Invasive species management programs face similar questions, and lessons may be learned from these experiences. We explore these monitoring needs for gene drive mosquito projects progressing through the phases of pre-release, release and post-release.

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