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March 7, 2017: Bacteria Genes Can Help Control Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes

Scientists have found a way to sterilize mosquitoes that spread Zika virus and dengue fever, and thus to be able to control the insect population, according to research at Yale and Vanderbilt universities

According to a Yale press release, fertilization by infected male insects containing the common bacterium Wolbachia will fail unless the female also is infected with Wolbachia.

“Females inseminated by these males only lay dead (sterile) eggs,” said John Beckmann, a postdoctoral researcher in Yale’s Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, in a press release. Beckmann is lead author of a paper in Nature Microbiology and contributing author of a related paper in the journal Nature. “If the sterilized males are released into problem areas we can eliminate insect populations.”

Zika, which causes severe birth defects, and dengue fever, which causes flu-like symptoms and occasionally leads to death, are spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. However, that mosquito does not naturally carry Wolbachia, the release said.

By inserting the genes from Wolbachia into males of the Aedes aegypti species, the mosquito population could be controlled, said Mark Hochstrasser, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry and of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, in the release. Hochstrasser is senior author of the Nature Microbiology paper.

Beckmann told the New Haven Register that each female can lay 600 eggs in two batches during her life cycle. If she is impregnated by a sterile male, within three generations, there would be millions of sterile mosquitoes, he said.

Yale’s Judith Ronau, a postdoctoral associate in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, is co-lead author of the Nature Microbiology paper. Vanderbilt’s Seth Bordenstein is senior author of the Nature study.

Source: New Haven Register

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