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Underdominance gene drives are frequency-dependent drives that aim to spread a desired homozygote genotype within a population. When the desired homozygote is released above a threshold frequency, heterozygote fitness disadvantage acts to drive the desired trait to fixation. Underdominance drives have been proposed as a way to control vector-borne disease through population suppression and replacement in a spatially contained and reversible way—benefits that directly address potential safety concerns with gene drives. Here, ecological and epidemiological dynamics are coupled to a model of mosquito genetics to investigate theoretically the impact of different types of underdominance gene drive on disease prevalence. We model systems with two engineered alleles carried either on the same pair of chromosomes at the same locus or homozygously on different pairs at different loci, genetic lethality that affects both sexes or only females, and bi-sex or male-only releases. Further, the different genetic and ecological fitness costs that can arise from genetic modification and artificial rearing are investigated through their effect on the population threshold frequency that is required to trigger the drive mechanism. We show that male- only releases must be significantly larger than bi-sex releases to trigger the underdominance drive. In addition, we find that female-specific lethality averts a higher percentage of disease cases over a control period than does bi-sex lethality. Decreases in the genetic fitness of the engineered homozygotes can increase the underdominance threshold substantially, but we find that the mating success of transgenic mosquitoes with wild-type females (influenced by a lack of competitiveness or the evolution of behavioural resistance in the form of active female mate preference) and the longevity of artificially-reared mosquitoes are vitally important to the success chances of underdominance based gene drive control efforts. Keywords: gene drive, population genetics, mosquito ecology, epidemiology, mosquito control


Journal article


Journal of Theoretical Biology