From an article by Dan Modano at reliawire.com:

The specific genes that than enable the parasite called Wolbachia to infect insects by hijacking their reproduction have been identified by teams of biologists from Vanderbilt and Yale Universities.

Wolbachia is the world most successful parasite, but most people have never heard of it. That’s because because it only infects bugs – millions upon millions of species of insects, spiders, centipedes and other arthropods all around the globe.

The secret to the bacterium’s success is its ability to hijack its hosts’ reproduction. Biologists have known that Wolbachia were able to do this for more than 40 years, but this new finding marks the first time the mechanism Wolbachia used to do it has been understood.

The two universities have applied for a patent on the potential use of these genes to genetically engineer either the bacterial parasite or the insects themselves to produce more effective methods for controlling the spread of insect-borne diseases like dengue and Zika and for reducing the ravages of agricultural pests.

 

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Image Credit:      Bordenstein Lab / Vanderbilt

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