Revolutionizing Livestock Biosecurity: Using CRISPR Technology to Combat the New World Screwworm

Dr. Jessica Nelson,  Medriva,  2024.

The New World screwworm, a persistent parasite responsible for significant damage to the global livestock industry, may soon meet its match. Researchers at Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA) have developed a gene drive using CRISPR technology to combat this destructive pest. By manipulating the reproductive process of the screwworm fly, INIA scientists aim to cause a population crash, thereby reducing the parasite’s devastating impact on the livestock industry.

CRISPR gene drive technology offers a potentially more efficient and powerful solution compared to previous methods, such as the sterile insect technique (SIT) used by the US. Unlike traditional techniques, CRISPR gene drives aim to spread fertility-damaging genes throughout the screwworm population, causing a significant decrease in their numbers. The process works by making female screwworms sterile. The ultimate goal is to release gene-edited male screwworm flies into the wild. These males will mate with females, passing on the gene drive and leading to a population crash of the screwworm fly. This innovative approach has shown promise in caged trials and is currently being tested further in the INIA labs.

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