Pest control

Genetic engineering may help control disease-carrying mosquitoes

It produces fit and healthy eunuchs

EVERY YEAR, hundreds of millions of people catch mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever. Hundreds of thousands die. Drug treatments are imperfect. And, despite decades of effort, vaccines have, for many of these diseases, proved tricky to develop.

Better, then, to stop those infections happening in the first place, by exterminating—or at least suppressing—the mosquitoes that carry the diseases. In a paper just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers led by Craig Montell, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, describe how CRISPR-Cas9, a new and powerful genetic-engineering process, could help to do just that.

Dr Montell and his colleagues used CRISPR to boost an existing control method called the sterile insect technique (SIT). This involves releasing lots of sterilised males into the…