Changes in the microbiota cause genetically modified Anopheles to spread in a population

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Science  29 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6358, pp. 1396-1399
DOI: 10.1126/science.aak9691

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Getting to the guts of mosquito control

Malaria persistently evades our best efforts to eliminate it. Pike et al. genetically modified malaria vector mosquitoes to be more immune-resistant to infection by the parasite, which altered the composition of the mosquitoes' gut bacteria. Genetically modified male (female) mosquitoes preferentially mated with wild-type females (males). Ten generations later, the genetically modified mosquitoes constituted 90% of a caged population without losing resistance to the malaria parasite. In an alternative strategy, Wang et al. engineered mosquitoes' gut bacteria. A strain of nonpathogenic bacteria, AS1, was both sexually and transgenerationally transmitted. The strain infected a laboratory population of mosquitoes and persisted for at least three generations. AS1 engineered to inhibit malaria parasite development in the midgut could do so without handicapping the mosquitoes.

Science, this issue p. 1396, p. 1399


The mosquito’s innate immune system controls both Plasmodium and bacterial infections. We investigated the competitiveness of mosquitoes genetically modified to alter expression of their own anti-Plasmodium immune genes in a mixed-cage population with wild-type mosquitoes. We observed that genetically modified mosquitoes with increased immune activity in the midgut tissue did not have an observed fitness disadvantage and showed reduced microbial loads in both the midgut and reproductive organs. These changes result in a mating preference of genetically modified males for wild-type females, whereas wild-type males prefer genetically modified females. These changes foster the spread of the genetic modification in a mosquito cage population.

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