UC Davis Joins DARPA-funded “Safe Genes” Program

Initiative Aims to Support Responsible CRISPR Gene Editing

By Trina Wood

The federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) last week announced the Safe Genes program to explore innovative genetic techniques to support bio-innovation and combat biological threats. The effort, supported by a $65 million grant from DARPA over four years, aims to harness gene editing tools in a safe, responsible manner to maximize the benefits of these technologies while minimizing their inherent risks.

Aedes aegypti carries yellow fever, Zika and other viruses. (CDC photo)

Control of Dengue Fever With Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes

Virus-suppressing Bacteria Could Control Transmission by Mosquitoes

Mosquitos infected with the bacteria Wolbachia are significantly worse vectors for dengue virus, but how to establish and spread Wolbachia in an urban mosquito population is unclear. A study published May 30 in the open access journal PLOS Biology shows that over time, strategic releases of mosquitoes infected with the dengue-suppressing bacteria may be enough to allow the virus-resistant insects to spread across large cities.

Leading the work are Professor Michael Turelli, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, and colleagues from Scott O’Neill’s “Eliminate Dengue Program” based at Monash University, Melbourne.

UC Davis Joins Initiative to Fight Malaria in Africa

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Scientists hope to control the spread of malaria using genetically modified mosquitoes that are resistant to the parasite.

By Trina Wood

UC Davis vector biologist Greg Lanzaro is taking part in the newly-announced UC Irvine Malaria Initiative to genetically engineer new strains of mosquitoes to fight malaria in Africa. The project, led by UCI’s pioneering vector biologist Anthony James, will bring together experts in molecular biology, entomology, public health and community engagement from across the UC system.

Foreclosed McMansions = Mosquito heaven

Home mortgage delinquencies in Bakersfield, Calif. increased 300 percent in 2007, while cases of West Nile virus almost tripled in the same year, according to a study by UC Davis entomologist William Reisen and colleagues.

The link? Neglected swimming pools and jacuzzis turning green and providing a perfect habitat for mosquitoes. More alarmingly, many of the pools were colonized Culex tarsalis, a species of mosquito usually found in more rural areas, which is better at transmitting West Nile virus than the mosquitoes it has replaced.