New Arthropod Containment Recommendations Provide Essential Guidance for Safety of Gene Drive Research

S. James and D. O’Brochta,  The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene,  tpmd211148. 2021.

Gene drive technologies have not yet been field tested, however, there are no data on the possible environmental or health effects of releasing gene drive–modified organisms. For this reason, there have been widespread calls for additional guidance on risk assessment and management, and some have even proposed a moratorium on gene drive research until such guidance is in place. One immediate need has been for guidance on appropriate containment measures that researchers should follow when investigating gene drive–modified organisms, given that these are meant to spread their transgenes by inter breeding with compatible local species. For example, a 2020 survey of biosafety professionals revealed that the majority felt existing guidance was inadequate for making risk assessments and containment decisions regarding gene drive–modified arthropods. Lack of standard guidance can lead to uneven application of containment measures among institutions and decreased public confidence in the research. The American Committee of Medical Entomology (ACME) of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene has responded to this need with the recent publication of an addendum to its widely influential Arthropod Containment Guidelines. The new addendum provides specific recommendations on containment practices for arthropods modified with engineered transgenes capable of gene drive.

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