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Engineered resistance to Zika virus in transgenic Ae. aegypti expressing a polycistronic cluster of synthetic miRNAs

By Anna B. Buchman, Stephanie Gamez, Ming Li, Igor Antoshechkin, Shin-Hang Lee, Shin-Wei Wang, Chun-Hong Chen, Melissa J Klein, Jean-Bernard Duchemin, Prasad N. Paradkar, Omar Akbari

Posted 12 Jun 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/344697

Recent Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreaks have highlighted the necessity for development of novel vector control strategies to combat arboviral transmission, including genetic versions of the sterile insect technique, artificial infection with Wolbachia to reduce population size and/or vectoring competency, and gene drive based methods. Here, we describe the development of mosquitoes synthetically engineered to impede vector competence to ZIKV. We demonstrate that a polycistronic cluster of engineered microRNAs (miRNAs) targeting ZIKV is expressed and fully processed following a blood meal in Ae. aegypti, ensuring the formation of mature synthetic miRNAs in the midgut where ZIKV resides in the early stages of infection. Critically, we demonstrate that engineered Ae. aegypti mosquitoes harboring the anti-ZIKV transgene have significantly reduced viral infection, dissemination, and transmission rates of ZIKV. Taken together, these compelling results provide a promising path forward for development of effective genetic-based ZIKV control strategies, which could potentially be extended to curtail other arboviruses.

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