Biotech Updates

Scientists Develop “Genetic Pesticide” to Combat Termites

May 30, 2008

Termites cause more than $1 billion in structural damage every year in the U.S. despite the wide array of available insect control techniques. Now a team of scientists from the University of Florida has found a way to combat the wood gnawing pest by targeting its very genes.

“The trend in insect control is to find methods that eliminate the problematic insect without affecting anything else in the environment,” said Michael Scharf, lead author of the study. “What could possibly be more specific than genes that are unique to the insect itself?”

Using RNA interference, a method of silencing gene expression by inserting short sequences of ribonucleic acid (RNA) that correspond to a gene essential for termite reproduction, the team has developed “genetic pesticides”. The genetic pesticide, when consumed by the insects, causes them to be cripplingly deformed after molting. This approach is much safer than the widely used neurotoxin-like insecticides. Insects tend to build resistance to toxins that affect their nervous system.

 Read the full article at