Controlling Zika – Vampires and Vegetarians

Controlling the Zika Virus Mosquito – Vampires and Vegetarians

Ambience: mosquitos
There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes, and one of them, Aedes aegypti, is the primary means of spreading the Zika virus, Dengue, Yellow Fever and other diseases. A new way of controlling this mosquito is in the works. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Tu: It’s the Yellow Fever mosquito, and that’s the common name for it.

Jake Tu is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Virginia Tech.

Tu: Aedes aegypti originates in Africa, but it’s found in a lot of places now, including South America, North America, Asia. My laboratory is mostly interested in understanding how sexes are determined in mosquitoes. This is very important because only females bite and males don’t. I like to say that females are vampires and males are vegetarians.
If we could manipulate the genetics of mosquito (s), and bias the sex ratio of Aedes aegypti towards more males, less females. When you have less females you have less mosquitos that bite us and you also have less individuals that lay eggs.

In collaboration with other scientists, Professor Tu discovered a gene that controls the gender of mosquitos, enabling scientists to create a transgenic mosquito.

Tu: When you have this gene even in females, you would start to see male features develop. We think this is the master switch of sex determination in Aedes aegypti, in this mosquito. What we’re trying to do is to put this gene in a chromosome that both male and female have access to.

And again, since it’s only female mosquitos that bite us, you can see the possibilities. We’ll hear more in future programs. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Controlling Zika - Vampires and Vegetarians

Uncovering the genetic "master switch" of sex determination in disease-carrying mosquitos.
Air Date:04/10/2017
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Transcript:

Controlling the Zika Virus Mosquito - Vampires and Vegetarians

Ambience: mosquitos
There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes, and one of them, Aedes aegypti, is the primary means of spreading the Zika virus, Dengue, Yellow Fever and other diseases. A new way of controlling this mosquito is in the works. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Tu: It's the Yellow Fever mosquito, and that's the common name for it.

Jake Tu is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Virginia Tech.

Tu: Aedes aegypti originates in Africa, but it's found in a lot of places now, including South America, North America, Asia. My laboratory is mostly interested in understanding how sexes are determined in mosquitoes. This is very important because only females bite and males don't. I like to say that females are vampires and males are vegetarians.
If we could manipulate the genetics of mosquito (s), and bias the sex ratio of Aedes aegypti towards more males, less females. When you have less females you have less mosquitos that bite us and you also have less individuals that lay eggs.

In collaboration with other scientists, Professor Tu discovered a gene that controls the gender of mosquitos, enabling scientists to create a transgenic mosquito.

Tu: When you have this gene even in females, you would start to see male features develop. We think this is the master switch of sex determination in Aedes aegypti, in this mosquito. What we're trying to do is to put this gene in a chromosome that both male and female have access to.

And again, since it's only female mosquitos that bite us, you can see the possibilities. We'll hear more in future programs. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.