How does gene drive relate to Oxitec’s FriendlyTM mosquito technology?

Category: Vector Borne Disease

Oxitec pioneered a variation on Sterile Insect Technique using genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that contained genes lethal to the next generation. When the male mosquitoes were released in large numbers, local female mosquitoes which mated with them were unable to produce viable progeny and the overall numbers of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were reduced. With this first generation product, there was no intention that the modification remain in the environment beyond the initial release. Oxitec has now moved to a second generation technology in which the introduced gene acts only against female progeny. When these modified mosquitoes are released, only male offspring survive to reproduce and these males can pass the modification to half of their offspring.

There is sometimes confusion about whether this genetic biocontrol method uses gene drive, but the answer is that it does not. This second generation technology depends on Mendelian inheritance, in which the genes from either parent usually are passed to about half of offspring in each subsequent generation. In this way, the modification will persist in the local mosquito population for some time but the numbers of modified mosquitoes will continue to decline. In contrast, the intention of gene drive is to increase the numbers of modified mosquitoes within the targeted population over time for greater sustainability and cost-effectiveness.

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