Gene Drive Supplement

Gene Drive Model Increases Knowledge Against Destructive Bee Parasite

April 27, 2022

Many measures have been proposed to control varroa mites (Varroa destructor), one of the most significant bee pests globally. These measures include physical and chemical treatments, but researchers are still pursuing other methods to reduce their threat and one of them is through gene drive technology.

Existing methods are laborious, not completely effective and may affect the bees. A recent study by scientists from Scotland and the US demonstrated that a genetic control system using gene drive could be an alternative tool. However, it would require specific colony-level management practices to overcome the challenges of both inbreeding and haplodiploidy.

The researchers were able to determine that the most promising direction may be to design neutral drives with environmentally induced fitness effects, like spreading a toxin precursor for example, or drives that remove insecticide (acaricide) resistance alleles. Drives that target genes involved in varroa-viral interactions may also be prospective.

Further analysis of the model suggests that controlling varroa growth with acaricides may be an effective way to improve the spread of gene drives as this will allow more time for the gene drive to fix. However, it is recommended that these findings be investigated further to address risks of acaricide resistance among varroa populations, as well as the risk of acaricide itself towards honeybees.

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