Genes from a common bacterium can be harnessed to sterilize male insects, a tool that can potentially control populations of both disease-bearing mosquitoes and agricultural pests, researchers at Yale University and Vanderbilt University report.
Researchers report finding two genes encoded by Wolbachia that when introduced into fruit flies can completely sterilize male insects. The sterility is triggered by a specific enzyme mechanism operating in the sperm and embryo, Yale researchers report in the journal Nature Microbiology. The discovery may allow public health officials to control the size of insect populations by introducing sterile males into the wild.
Wolbachia, however, is not found in some insects -- most notably Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are the primary transmitters of diseases such as Zika and dengue fever. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of Wolbachia's effect on reproduction may help researchers produce sterile male Aedes by direct insertion of the genes. When released into the wild, these males could help control mosquito populations.
Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle