Is ‘Gene Drive’ Technology the Future of Pest Control?

The Terminix pest control team prides itself on permanent, long-lasting pest control that’s humane for the animals, and safe for the environment.

So when new forms of pest control technology become the talk of the science community, we’re front and center to educate ourselves, and potentially improve our offerings.

The most recent pest buzz to catch our attention is ‘gene drive’ technology, a next-gen genetic technology developed to control pests.

Two for One

Researchers from Scotland are developing two unique ways that disrupt female fertility in rats and mice, building on past lab studies focusing on eliminating malaria-ridden mosquitoes.

These gene drives push engineered genes by over-riding natural biological processes, resulting in all offspring carrying two copies of a gene; usually, it’s one gene a piece from mother and father.

And while the applications to pest control can be very powerful, like all new technologies, it comes with controversy – namely, the genetic-engineered organisms’ impact on today’s ecosystems.

“Mutation: it is the key to evolution.”

While the controversies have led to some calling for a gene drive ban, it would be a short-sighted move says Bruce Whitelaw of the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute.

“A moratorium would prevent the research which is required for us to understand if and how this can be used in an advantageous way for our society,” he told reporters.

“We need to have an understanding of what gene drive can do and how it can be controlled so that decisions are based on knowledge rather than fear.”

Perhaps the most alluring benefit to gene drive pest control is its durable, ensured effect on pests, regardless if they’re a disease-transferring insect or crop-eating rodent. It’s also a cost-effective extermination, seeing as only a handful of animals would initially be released.

It’s also seen as a humane way of eradicating large, unwanted populations of sentient mammals like rats, which are usually removed with harmful poisons or traps.

Despite these potential benefits, researchers do agree more testing is required on the risks and unintended consequences of releasing mutant animals in the wild.

What’s Next

If the approach with mosquitoes and rats are successful, the gene drive technology could be expanded to control other non-insect pest species, such as rabbits, minks, and cane toads.

Taking their research to another plateau, the scientists would like to improve on the gene drive, building self-limiting gene drives that burn out after a number of generations. This would both solve the influx of that particular pest, and control the effects on the ecosystem.

Gene drive technology will be especially useful for mosquitoes, as pest control techniques today show mixed success at best. Insecticide resistance continues to develop in mosquitoes across the globe, while drug makers struggle to create workable vaccines against the complex diseases they carry.

While we don’t have the technology to wipe out an entire generation of pests, we’ve made a pretty good reputation of eliminating pest infestations from residences across the GTA.

Contact us today if your home has been overrun by household pests!