The Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy just announced an inquiry to investigate the impact of feral and domestic cats on native wildlife and habitats in the country. Authorities also aim to evaluate the efficacy, cost-effectiveness and use of current and emerging methods and tools for controlling feral cats, including baiting, the establishment of feral cat-free areas using conservation fencing, and gene drive technology.

A recent report analyses the application of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and operational plans, used in traditional entomological studies, to the case of genetically-modified mosquitoes for vector control. The authors explain the importance of developing an audit approach to verify the correct use of SOPs and the performance of tasks during mosquito field studies. They also recognise the benefits of having an external team of auditors to support the process.

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.

Studies focusing on the use of gene drive mosquitoes to control vector-borne diseases are setting the pace for genetic research in other fields such as schistosomiasis vector control. A recent paper published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases explores the perspectives from practitioners of global health, genome engineering, epidemiology, and snail/schistosome biology about the use of gene drive to control schistosomiasis. It also outlines strategies for responsible gene drive technology development in this field.

Scientists, decision makers and other stakeholders will need to balance the risks and benefits before testing and deploying gene drive-modified mosquitoes, as they would do with any other novel tool. In a recent paper published at the journal Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, researchers discuss the standards for judging whether an investigational gene drive product is ready for field trials. The report summarizes the outcomes of two workshops organized in 2019, aiming to identify efficacy and safety characteristics that must be minimally met before moving to the field testing stage.