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GE Fruit Flies To Reduce Infestation

GE Fruit Flies To Reduce Infestation

By Marietta Gross - Scoop Media Auckland

Scoop Report: British genetic engineers have changed the genome of the Mediterranean fruit fly. The genetic intervention prevents the males from breeding viable offspring. Therefore it could be applied to combat the pests.

Mediterranean fruit flies cause worldwide damages. Scientists write that genetically sterilised male fruit flies will contain reproduction rates of the fly.

Scientist Luke Alphey and colleagues from the University of Oxford report in the magazine “Nature Biotechnology” that they used a protein which reacts on the antibiotic tretracycline. They implanted the gene for this protein, called tTA, into the fly genome. When the antibiotic is present, only small, harmless amounts of the tTA are produced. Without the antibiotic the G.E. flies produce a high, fatal concentration.

On pairing with a genetically changed male the untreated female lays eggs, but no new fly generation is going to emerge from these eggs. The genetically engineered insects could contribute to reducing flie numbers, says Alpey. There is an alternative method of fruit flie sterilisation - by way of radiation.

Scientists say this method has a crucial advantage: It would not negatively affect the attractiveness of treated males and are able to compete with untreated males.

The Mediterranean fruit fly Ceratitis capitata infests around 250 different fruit-, nuts- and vegetable cultivars and causes economic damage costing the United States alone millions of dollars.

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