With the Zika virus spreading largely unchecked in Latin America and the Caribbean by way of a now-notorious insect, some of the nation’s leading mosquito researchers are striving to assemble a state-of-the-art DNA map that they say will help them fight the disease with the mosquito’s own genetic code.
The quest involves scientists from assorted disciplines who rarely collaborate, often compete for funding and have different ideas about how to genetically manipulate the mosquito, Aedes aegypti.
Some want to hunt for genes that, if altered in mosquitoes released into the wild, could drive the species to extinction. Others are trying to identify genes that control how mosquitoes sense human prey so as to devise better repellents. Still others favor the idea of selectively breeding populations of mosquitoes, like corn or cattle, for desirable — or, at least, less undesirable — traits, such as a preference for biting animals other than humans.
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