Scientists have identified a gene within the Aedes aegypti mosquito that can be used to switch their sex, transforming disease-carrying females into benign males. The finding could result in new population control strategies, increasing the ratio of males, and helping to curb deadly diseases such as chikungunya, dengue and yellow fever, all of which are transmitted by the A. aegypti mosquito.
When it comes to mosquito-borne diseases, females are the villains. While males feed on flower nectar, females feast on humans, sucking our blood in order to gather essential nutrients, which they need to produce eggs. If there were a way to limit the number of females, conventional thinking follows that disease transmission rates would decline.
Now, researchers from Virginia Tech in the US have identified and isolated the sex determining gene – which they call Nix – and have used it to change the sex-organs of female mosquitoes. “Nix provides us with exciting opportunities to harness mosquito sex in the fight against infectious diseases because maleness is the ultimate disease-refractory trait,” one of the team, biochemist Zhijian Jake Tu, said in a press release. Source: Scientists identify a gene to switch the sex of a mosquito