Bug Blog

University Of Arizona Researchers Have Learned To Control Disease-Carrying Mosquito Populations By Genetically Thwarting Egg Development

While this past summer may not have seen the same degree of mosquito related health problems as the previous few years, scientists are, nevertheless, preparing for a comeback of mosquito-borne disease threats in the coming years. Hopefully, mosquito-borne disease outbreaks will not occur in the United States, or anywhere in the world for that matter, during the summer of 2019. But after the Zika scare of 2015 and 2016, entomologists, pest control researchers and other experts are not willing to take any chances. In order to keep the public safe from disease-carrying mosquitoes, researchers are developing a plethora of different methods aimed at eradicating the problem insects from vulnerable areas. Many of these methods make use of cutting-edge technology that can render mosquitoes sterile, thus reducing their populations. However, one enterprising team of researchers from the University of Arizona have found a way of genetically engineering mosquito eggs in order to make them degrade and die before they hatch larvae.

A protein known as eggshell organizing factor 1, or EOF1, plays a major part in the formation of mosquito egg shells. If this protein were to be subtracted from the process of egg development, eggs, and the developing embryo within, would not be able to develop properly. A recent study published by U of A researchers describes how this protein can be rendered useless during the process of egg development. In fact, researchers have already proven this method to be a success by means of genetic engineering technology. According to the study, when EOF1 is genetically disrupted, eggs become porous and pale as opposed to durable and dark in color. This causes the eggs to collapse in many cases. At least this is the observable result in 60 percent of Aedes aegypti eggs that had become genetically altered by researchers. However, almost all of the genetically altered eggs failed to produce living larvae, despite their external appearance. This mosquito control method is ideal for eradicating the blood suckers while also not harming other insects.

Do you think genetic technology will render disease-carrying insects a non-threat in the near future?