Researchers at The Pirbright Institute have successfully edited the genes of the southern house mosquito. The female of this species is the vector responsible for avian malaria transmission - a key contributor to the extinction of several species of birds - and for spreading human diseases such as lymphatic filariasis (commonly known as elephantiasis) and the West Nile virus.

The results of this study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 could be used to introduce a gene for a fluorescent protein into the genome of the mosquito, which was successfully inherited by its offspring. In the future, the same technique could be used to spread a desired trait (such as the inability to spread a disease or to produce fertile offspring) through the southern house mosquito’s population.

The IUCN World Conservation Congress is taking place in Marseilles September 3rd to 11th, in a hybrid virtual and physical format. As part of its virtual aspects, it has made available to the general public over 150 e-posters and presentations prepared by conference attendees on a myriad of issues vital to ongoing attempts to halt biodiversity loss. These include several prepared by the members of the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research and other researchers on topics related to gene drive. They will be available to all for the duration of the Congress, and those who have registered virtually will be able to ask questions or leave comments on them.

Check the e-posters below!

The IUCN World Conservation Congress will take place in a hybrid format from September 03-11 in Marseille, France. The event will bring together several thousand leaders and decision-makers from government, civil society, indigenous peoples, business and academia to discuss major issues that will drive conservation and sustainable development actions for the next decades.

During the Congress, IUCN members will vote and adopt several motions, including the IUCN Principles on Synthetic Biology and Biodiversity Conservation. Outcomes will ultimately influence the global conservation agenda and guide the policy and Programme for IUCN. Throughout the congress, there will also be several onsite and online events structured around seven main themes: landscapes, freshwater, oceans, climate change, rights and governance, economic and financial systems, knowledge, innovation & technology. The official programme is available here.

A group of scientists has identified a new enzyme responsible for the malaria parasite’s survival – the acetyl-CoA synthetase – which could become a new target for malaria drugs.

Studies from 2018 have identified two compounds that could potentially block this recently discovered enzyme, making them good candidates for the production of antimalarial drugs. Further studies are needed to assess the potency of these compounds, but they seem to be able to kill the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum at multiple stages of its life cycle. Most existing drugs exclusively target the form of the parasite that infects red blood cells; these two compounds can also kill Plasmodium falciparum at the stages when it infects human liver cells.

Gene drive has already been suggested as a possible tool to control grey squirrels in the UK, an invasive species responsible for the decline of the native red squirrel population since it was introduced in the 1870s. Now, scientists from the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute are also considering using the technology to protect Britain's native, white-clawed crayfish from the invasive US signal crayfish.

The US species was introduced in the 1970s and has already wiped out white-clawed crayfish from some UK regions. Exiting control methods such as trapping have proved ineffective, and a gene drive crayfish carrying infertility genes could offer a solution to the invasive crustaceans. Further research is necessary to ensure that the technology is safe, as well as effective, but scientists are optimistic.