A UC Davis expert on insect-borne diseases will lead a research project on the feasibility of genetically modifying mosquitoes to reduce the incidence of dengue fever.
Dengue fever, which has been known for more than 200 years, is caused by a virus transmitted to people by a mosquito species known as the Aedes aegypti. An estimated 50 million cases of dengue infection occur annually, according to the World Health Organization, including 100 to 200 cases reported each year in the United States. Approximately 20,000 people, mostly children, die each year from the disease.
Entomology professor Thomas Scott will select field-test sites in Southeast Asia and Latin America and oversee the construction and management of large outdoor experimental field cages. There the researchers will examine how mosquitoes might be genetically modified to reduce the ability of infected mosquitoes to successfully transmit dengue virus, and to reduce or eliminate mosquito populations. No genetically modified mosquitoes will be released into the natural environment.
The research is funded with $2.2 million from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health's Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative, launched in 2003 by the Gates Foundation.
Scott is director of the Davis Arbovirus Research Unit, a program of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Arboviruses are viruses carried by animals called arthropods, which include insects and spiders.