Eradicating exotic pests with 'infertility genes' may be possible

University of Adelaide researchers have shown that it may be possible to eradicate populations of invasive pest animals through the inheritance of a negative gene - a technique known as gene drive.

Invasive pests cost agricultural industries around the world hundreds of millions of dollars and are a major threat to biodiversity and the environment. Spreading deleterious (such as genes causing sterility) through pest populations using gene-drive technology is viewed as a potential 'silver bullet' for conservation science and agriculture. The technology could also be applied for public health benefit, to control the spread of diseases by animals such as mosquitoes.

The University of Adelaide researchers developed a realistic mathematical model to predict whether gene drives could be used to eradicate populations of invasive mice from islands. Islands would be the most likely testing grounds for gene drives, to minimise the risk of spread to non-target populations.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers showed by computer simulation that a single introduction of 100 mice carrying a gene drive causing sterility could eradicate an island mouse population of 50,000 individuals within 4 to 5 years.

"If viable, this technology offers a humane, targeted solution for invasive species control. This could complement or even replace traditional control methods such as culling, trapping and poison baiting, as well as more advanced biocontrols such as rabbit haemorrhagic disease," says lead author and mathematical ecologist Dr Thomas Prowse, from the University of Adelaide's School of Mathematical Sciences.

"Our paper indicates that controlling invasive pest populations using gene drives may be feasible, but certainly the hype around this new technology is still some way ahead of the science."

The researchers found a way to defeat the evolution of resistant genes which could thwart the use of this technique for population control. But, they say, good gene-drive design is critical.

Gene drives work by overcoming the laws of natural selection which would typically remove detrimental genes from a population.

"New CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology enables the gene drive to replicate itself during egg and sperm production - this ensures that it is passed on to the next generation and ultimately results in spread through the entire population. Our results indicate that placing the gene drive in a fertility or viability gene will eventually cause the to crash," says Professor Paul Thomas, a molecular geneticist in the University's School of Biological Sciences.

Even so, evolution still upsets this process by producing resistant genes which don't accept the gene drive. The researchers showed that a technique allowing 'multiple shots on goal' overcame this problem.

"The next necessary step will be development of in laboratory mice under secure conditions to enable improved modelling of this potential for pest eradication," says Professor Thomas. "This will provide the critical data needed to debate the important questions that remain around biosecurity, regulation and ethics."


Explore further

Gene drives likely to be foiled by rapid rise of resistance

More information: Dodging silver bullets: good CRISPR gene-drive design is critical for eradicating exotic vertebrates, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rspb.2017.0799
Citation: Eradicating exotic pests with 'infertility genes' may be possible (2017, August 8) retrieved 19 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-08-eradicating-exotic-pests-infertility-genes.html
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Aug 09, 2017
"This will provide the critical data needed to debate the important questions that remain around biosecurity, regulation and ethics."


Where is the morality and ethics for letting literally millions of innocent children, women and men die of dreaded painful diseases while we debate the morality/ethics of destroying a population of pests?

And don't forget, we are not talking extinction here because a reserve supply of the targeted animals could be re released back in the wild.

Aug 09, 2017
My conscience says; a gene-drives that cure a pest species of a human pathogen is okay, but a gene-drives that annihilate an entire pest species for economic reason is a big NO!

I encourage people to say NO NO NO to gene-drives that was done without respect to the target species.

Aug 09, 2017
A court hearing should be set-up on a case-to-case basis whenever a gene-drives is to be applied to a species, this is so that a real debate is set-up for every case, so that all argument is heard and not hidden before the final decision to apply the technology on a species.

I don't mean a court ultimatum that ban/allow this technology, I mean a court ultimatuum that greenlite/block a fate of that species on case-to-case basis. I want all the pro/against argument to be heard before the technology is used on a species right before it happen.

I want checks and balance and a system that promote clear thinking.

Aug 09, 2017
A court hearing should be set-up on a case-to-case basis


Every single minute, hour, day that hearing is in process of being scheduled or proceeding literally hundreds if not thousands of people including babies are dying.
By even making that statement you are taking responsibility for those deaths. What if it were your children?
I use literally a lot here because when children die it is important to understand we are not talking figuratively about children dying.

And like I said we are NOT talking extinction only elimination till a better solution with advanced technology is achieved.

Aug 10, 2017
I went off the metformin (with the doctor's knowledge)


What a idiot.
Metformin extends life even in people without diabetes.

Aug 10, 2017
Every single minute, hour, day that hearing is in process of being scheduled or proceeding literally hundreds if not thousands of people including babies are dying
@herp-a-derpkis
for starters, appealing to emotions is the very last thing you want to do in any science

for two: it's far better to find or create a cure or vaccine for a disease than to eradicate a species without first knowing how it will affect the ecosystem: for all their deadliness, mosquito's are a food source for a lot of other things
Metformin extends life
you should actually look sh*t up before commenting - whereas metformin is great for treatment of type 2 diabetes, it's also hard on the kidneys

it's not a sole cause, but it exacerbates kidney problems
https://www.ncbi....1570803/

http://www.kidney...abstract

http://acpjc.acpo...-003.htm

Aug 10, 2017
@herp-a-derpkis cont'd
I went off the metformin (with the doctor's knowledge)


What a idiot.
Metformin extends life even in people without diabetes

then there is the fact that you're responding to a spam pseudoscience advert, not a real person who gives a sh*t about facts

worse still is that you present nonfactual information to support your own refute of the spam

http://pmj.bmj.co...239.long

https://link.spri...?LI=true

when you're prescribed metformin, you will also typically be prescribed kidney meds, and often other pills to assist you with potentially damaging or dangerous side effects, depending on certain factors

of course, one other reason you can have kidney and other problems is the diabetes itself, as it will cause kidney, heart and other problems

catch 22, but doesn't hide the fact that metformin can damage too

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