Scientists have been studying insect population suppression and population modification approaches to control the transmission of vector-borne diseases such as malaria for a while. Researchers from the University of California used small cage trials of non-drive and gene-drive strains of the Asian malaria vector mosquito Anopheles stephensi to evaluate which one would be a more efficient tool to control the disease.
In the gene drive case, only a single release and a much lower number of insects were necessary, favouring the use of this approach given its efficiency and anticipated cost of the control programmes. According to the researchers, in populations where full introduction of the modified gene was achieved, extinction followed within 3 generations due to the significant genetic exhibited by females. Even though the experiment was carried out in the laboratory, scientists claim that lessons learned from these small cage experiments can inform future research in the field and help to further develop the technology.
The full study is available at PLOS Genetics.