Quantifying the risk of vector-borne disease transmission attributable to genetically modified vectors

G. R. Hosack, A. Ickowicz and K. R. Hayes,  Royal Society Open Science,  8:201525. 2021.

The relative risk of disease transmission caused by the potential release of transgenic vectors, such as through sterile insect technique or gene drive systems, is assessed with comparison with wild-type vectors. The probabilistic risk framework is demonstrated with an assessment of the relative risk of lymphatic filariasis, malaria and o’nyong’nyong arbovirus transmission by mosquito vectors to human hosts given a released transgenic strain of Anopheles coluzzii carrying a dominant sterile male gene construct. Harm is quantified by a logarithmic loss function that depends on the causal risk ratio, which is a quotient of basic reproduction numbers derived from mathematical models of disease transmission. The basic reproduction numbers are predicted to depend on the number of generations in an insectary colony and the number of backcrosses between the transgenic and wild-type lineages. Analogous causal risk ratios for short-term exposure to a single cohort release are also derived. These causal risk ratios were parametrized by probabilistic elicitations, and updated with experimental data for adult vector mortality. For the wild-type, high numbers of insectary generations were predicted to reduce the number of infectious human cases compared with uncolonized wild-type. Transgenic strains were predicted to produce fewer infectious cases compared with the uncolonized wild-type.

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