Annual Review of Microbiology reports that Mosquito-transmitted diseases, including malaria and dengue, are a major threat to human health around the globe, affecting millions each year. A diverse array of next-generation tools have been designed to eliminate mosquito populations or to replace them with mosquitoes that are less capable of transmitting key pathogens. Many of these new approaches have been built on recent advances in CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing.
Genome editing (also called gene editing) is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA. These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed or altered at particular locations in the genome. Several approaches to genome editing have been developed. A recent one is the CRISPR-Cas9, which is emerging as a powerful tool for engineering the genome in diverse organisms. These initiatives have driven the development of pathogen-resistant lines, new genetics-based sexing methods, and new methods of driving desirable genetic traits into mosquito populations.
Many other emerging tools incorporate microorganisms, including two strategies involving Wolbachia that are achieving great success in the field. Wolbacha are bacteria that reduce the mosquitoes‘ ability to transmit viruses like dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever.
At the same time, other mosquito-associated bacteria, fungi, and even viruses represent untapped sources of new mosquitocidal or antipathogen compounds. Although there are still hurdles to be overcome, the prospect that such approaches will reduce the impact of these diseases is highly encouraging.