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Quantifying the efficacy of genetic shifting in control of mosquito-borne diseases.

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Many of the world's most prevalent diseases are transmitted by animal vectors such as dengue transmitted by mosquitoes. To reduce these vector-borne diseases, a promising approach is "genetic shifting": selective breeding of the vectors to be more resistant to pathogens and releasing them to the target populations to reduce their ability to transmit pathogens, that is, lower their vector competence. The efficacy of genetic shifting will depend on possible counterforces such as natural selection against low vector competence. To quantitatively evaluate the potential efficacy of genetic shifting, we developed a series of coupled genetic-demographic models that simulate the changes of vector competence during releases of individuals with low vector competence. We modeled vector competence using different genetic architectures, as a multilocus, one-locus, or two-locus trait. Using empirically determined estimates of model parameters, the model predicted a reduction of mean vector competence of at least three standard deviations after 20 releases, one release per generation, and 10% of the size of the target population released each time. Sensitivity analysis suggested that release efficacy depends mostly on the vector competence of the released population, release size, release frequency, and the survivorship of the released individuals, with duration of the release program less important. Natural processes such as density-dependent survival and immigration from external populations also strongly influence release efficacy. Among different sex-dependent release strategies, releasing blood-fed females together with males resulted in the highest release efficacy, as these females mate in captivity and reproduce when released, thus contributing a greater proportion of low-vector-competence offspring. Conclusions were generally consistent across three models assuming different genetic architectures of vector competence, suggesting that genetic shifting could generally apply to various vector systems and does not require detailed knowledge of the number of loci contributing to vector competence.

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