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Gene Drives: Just 100 Infertile Mice Can Eradicate an Island Population

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University of Adelaide researchers have shown that it may be possible to eradicate populations of invasive pest animals through the inheritance of a negative gene – a technique known as a “gene drive”.

The deliberate spreading of deleterious genes, such as genes causing sterility, through pest populations using gene drives is viewed as a potential “silver bullet” for conservation science and agriculture (AS, July/August 2017 issue). The technology could also be applied to public health efforts to control the spread of diseases by animals such as mosquitoes.

The researchers developed a realistic mathematical model to predict whether gene drives could be used to eradicate populations of invasive mice from islands, which would be the most likely testing grounds for gene drives in order to minimise the risk of them spreading to non-target populations.

Published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers showed by computer simulation that a single introduction of 100 mice carrying a gene drive that caused sterility could eradicate an island mouse population of 50,000 individuals within 4–5 years.

“If viable, this technology offers a humane, targeted solution for invasive species control,” says lead author and mathematical ecologist Dr Thomas Prowse. “This could complement or even replace traditional control methods such as culling,...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.