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Field performance of engineered male mosquitoes

Abstract

Dengue is the most medically important arthropod-borne viral disease, with 50–100 million cases reported annually worldwide1. As no licensed vaccine or dedicated therapy exists for dengue, the most promising strategies to control the disease involve targeting the predominant mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti. However, the current methods to do this are inadequate. Various approaches involving genetically engineered mosquitoes have been proposed2,3,4, including the release of transgenic sterile males5,6,7,8,9,10. However, the ability of laboratory-reared, engineered male mosquitoes to effectively compete with wild males in terms of finding and mating with wild females, which is critical to the success of these strategies, has remained untested. We report data from the first open-field trial involving a strain of engineered mosquito. We demonstrated that genetically modified male mosquitoes, released across 10 hectares for a 4-week period, mated successfully with wild females and fertilized their eggs. These findings suggest the feasibility of this technology to control dengue by suppressing field populations of A. aegypti.

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Figure 1: Field site and larval fluorescence.
Figure 2: OX513A release and recapture data.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Z. Ebanks, I. Black, Z. Curtis, C. Phillips, A. Miles and T. Matthews for technical and logistical assistance, G. Labbé and P. Gray for strain development, and G. Labbé and N. Morrison for manuscript review. We are grateful to the Lands & Survey Department of the Cayman Islands Government for permission to use imagery and data. A.F.H. thanks Adapco, Bayer and Central Life Sciences for supporting her PhD studentship. C.A.D. thanks the UK Medical Research Council for Centre funding.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

L.A., A.R.M., C.B., A.F.H., D.N. and W.D.P. conceived and supervised the project. A.F.H., D.N., N.K. and S.S. conducted the experiments. A.R.M., C.A.D. and L.A. analyzed the data and wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Luke Alphey.

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Competing interests

D.N., A.R.M. S.S., C.B. and L.A. are employees of Oxitec Ltd. and have employment and/or equity interest in Oxitec. All other authors declare no competing financial interests. Oxitec and Oxford University hold patents and/or other intellectual property rights in areas related to the subject matter of this paper.

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Harris, A., Nimmo, D., McKemey, A. et al. Field performance of engineered male mosquitoes. Nat Biotechnol 29, 1034–1037 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt.2019

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