Can a gene drive construct from modified mosquitoes be transmitted to humans?

Category: Gene Drive Safety

Highly unlikely. This is extraordinarily improbable because it would require a series of highly unlikely events to occur:

  • DNA transfer: analyses of the genomes of primates (including humans) have not revealed the presence of any insect genes, suggesting that a transfer of genes from mosquitoes to humans (horizontal gene transfer) has never been detected.
  • DNA location: it would also be highly unlikely that even if mosquito DNA were transferred when the mosquito bites, that DNA could make its way inside in a human cell, and even less likely that it would make its way to a human sperm or egg cell in a way that retains its function.
  • DNA functionality: most gene drive systems are created so that the gene drive will only be active in the reproductive system of the mosquito, which means the molecular components comprising the gene drive are not likely to function within a human cell.

Given that each event individually has an extremely low probability of occurring, taken together the probability of a functional gene drive being transferred from a modified mosquito to a human is expected to be exceedingly low. Nonetheless, this question must be addressed in case-by-case risk assessment.

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