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How to control pest insects such as mosquitoes by releasing lots more of them!

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The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a species-specific, environmentally friendly method of pest control which depends on the mass-rearing, sterilization and release of large numbers of pest insects. These sterile insects mate with the wild population, thereby reducing its reproductive potential. If a sufficient number of sterile insects can be released for a sufficient period, the target population will decline and collapse. Successful large-scale SIT programmes have been conducted around the world against a range of agricultural pest insects. Trials in the 1970s and 1980s against mosquito species were rather equivocal. Modern genetics potentially provides several improvements that could overcome some of the technical difficulties with classical SIT , increase its cost-effectiveness and extend the range of suitable species, for example to mosquitoes. Methods using a repressible dominant lethal genetic system, known as RIDL ®, are being developed at the University of Oxford and through the spin-out company Oxitec Ltd. Oxitec has created RIDL strains for several target species, including the disease vector mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, and is conducting field trials. Mathematical models are being developed to explore various aspects of this new technology.

This talk is part of the Worms and Bugs series.

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