Two studies posted in Nature this week (LePage, Beckman) have shown the power of common bacterial genes in mosquito sterilisation. By splicing bacterial genes into living male mosquitoes they become infertile and allow for control of the mosquito population size. The bacteria Wolbachia is found in approximately 60% of insects including some species of mosquito, however, in the mosquito responsible for Zika and dengue fever, Aedes aegypti, it is absent.
The current understanding of the bacteria involves two genes one that codes for an enzyme that acts as a toxin and one for a protein that acts as an antidote. The toxin acts on sperm preventing the chromosomes from moving apart, crucial for the cell to replicate. The protein prevents this from happening by binding to the enzyme and stopping it from having any effect. This new technique places the gene for the toxin directly into the mosquito, sterilising it.
Image Credit: Bordenstein lab-Vanderbilt
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