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  • Tinkering with genes to fight insect-borne disease

Genetic engineering is allowing new techniques to be developed to combat serious insect-borne parasitic diseases such as sleeping sickness and malaria. One approach, aimed at reducing insect populations, releases adults engineered to carry a gene that is lethal in all offspring, or that selectively kills female offspring, leaving males to continue spreading the gene to their own daughters.

Bacteria living in insect guts have also been recruited, reports Leslie Harris O'Hanlon.  Engineering these bacteria to produce a protein lethal to the parasite that causes Chagas' disease can clear insects of parasites.

Despite the potentially dramatic impact of genetic engineering on control of insect-borne diseases, concerns remain. There is a widespread lack of regulations concerning release of engineered insects and impacts of such releases on other insects and the wider environment have yet to be studied in detail.

Link to full article in The Lancet*

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