New Nonchemical Approach to Curbing
Mosquitoes By Sharon Durham December 20, 2007
Most pesticides are toxic to insects and humans alike, but a molecular
pesticide developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists may provide a new way to
deal with mosquito pests without causing a risk to human health.
The molecular pesticide technology would also overcome the mosquito's
ability to develop resistance to particular pesticides. A molecular pesticide
has nucleic acid, such as DNA or RNA, as its active ingredient. The technology
also has potential to be used against other insect pests.
The technology was developed by ARS entomologists
W. Pridgeon and
Becnel, in the
Mosquito and Fly Research Unit,
for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, Fla.
Their technology prevents mosquitoes from producing essential proteins
necessary for their survival. Although other approaches to nonchemical pest
control are being pursued, this ARS invention has certain advantages.
The molecular pesticide concept allows scientists to design each
pesticide specifically for the targeted individual pest species. It interrupts
genes essential for insect survival, causing the insect to die. This recently
discovered technology maximizes safety and minimizes environmental impact on
In addition, molecular pesticides should be effective against pest
species that are resistant to conventional chemical pesticides. Chemical
pesticides often have an impact on the physiological systems shared by humans,
but this new method only targets specific genes of the pest species. Molecular
pesticides can also be easily administeredby contacting the insect
This technology would also reduce the time and costs associated with
obtaining regulatory approval of new products and would also serve as a model
system for developing novel insecticides. Successful development and transfer
of molecular pesticides could represent a quantum leap in developing new
toxicants for pest control.
A patent application for this technology has been submitted and ARS is
seeking a cooperative research and development partner to develop appropriate
formulations that can be marketed and sold commercially. This research was
partially funded by the
War-Fighter Protection Research Program funded from the
U.S. Department of Defense.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.