Population dynamics of engineered underdominance and killer-rescue gene drives in the control of disease vectors

Vector-borne diseases represent a severe burden to both human and animal health worldwide. The methods currently being used to control a range of these diseases do not appear sufficient to address the issues at hand. As such, alternate methods for the control of vector-borne diseases are currently being investigated. Among the promising techniques currently being considered are a range of genetic control methods known as gene drive systems. These allow desirable genetic traits (such as a much reduced capacity for vectors to transmit viruses) to be spread through a target population; taking advantage of natural mate seeking behaviour to locate vector sub-populations that can be extremely difficult for humans to locate and reach. Here we use mathematical models (parameterised to consider mosquito populations) to demonstrate the robustness of the engineered underdominance and killer-rescue classes of gene drive to different ecological factors including birth and death rates; the number and quality of breeding sites (i.e. carrying capacity); and the strength of density-dependent competition during the larval development phase. We then go on to explore the range of potential outcomes that may result from the migration of individuals between two neighbouring populations.

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