All Zika Mosquitoes can be destroyed with a Radical Genetic Technology

Published By : 08 Feb 2016 | Published By : QYRESEARCH

According to researchers in the U.S., a controversial genetic technology called ‘gene drive’, can wipe out mosquitoes carrying Zika virus. The technology was demonstrated last year in fruit flies, yeast cells, and a particular species of mosquito that transmits malaria. The genetic technology employs gene-snipping process CRISPR to force a genetic change that spreads through a population as it reproduces. 

CRISPR might Theoretically Drive out Zika-Spreading Mosquito

Aedes aegypti is the type of mosquito suspected for spreading Zika virus. According to the World Health Organization, the virus is spreading rapidly across the Americas. The WHO has declared the epidemic as global health emergency. Though the virus causes only a mild rash, the epidemic is suspected behind the birth of more than 4,000 children in Brazil, born with microcephaly or shrunken heads. Though molecular biologists have pointed out that the technology could be easily available within a year to drive the mosquito species to extinction, it is a hot debate among ecologists regarding any release of a gene drive in the wild. No public health agency has so far backed the idea of gene drive. 

There is no easy way to tackle the Zika virus. No vaccine has been developed so far and it would take years to develop one. In Brazil, where the virus has become an epidemic, over 220,000 soldiers are being sent door-to-door to check for mosquito-breeding locations such as swimming pools and old tires. Also, women are being asked to delay their pregnancy as the virus is suspected to affect the growth of brain in an unborn child. 

What would happen if Mosquitoes are wiped out?

There are a number of unforeseen ecological consequences regarding the implementation of gene drive to eradicate the Zika virus-causing mosquitoes. 

  1. What would happen if the DNA change spreads to other insects’ species?
  2. If there are adverse ecological consequences, would scientists be able to recall them?

These are some of the unanswered questions that need to be discussed among the scientific fraternity.

Back To Top