Jul 28, 2021 1 min, 1 sec

As well as bringing fresh hope in the fight against one of the world’s biggest killers, the study lays the foundations for further trials of gene-drive technology, which could mean self-destroying mosquitoes being released into the wild within 10 years.

The scientists identified a crucial sex determination gene called doublesex, which is identical across individual Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, a species responsible for most of the malaria transmission in sub-Saharan Africa.

Females mosquitoes carrying the gene drive in this gene are unable to produce offspring.

In 2018 Hammond’s team used the doublesex gene drive to crash a population of about 600 A gambiae mosquitoes housed in a small cage.

This involved releasing genetically modified, sterile, male mosquitoes into the wild, to test whether they could survive, and continue to be tracked – an essential step towards eventual field trials of gene-drive organisms, which have not yet taken place.

“This is something that has never been achieved before – a single release of gene drive into a simulated field population, which brought about a crash of that entire population within a year, with no further human input.

However, Hammond stressed that more comprehensive gene drive testing and environmental risk assessments were needed before larger field trials could take place.

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