There’s a proposal to release genetically modified mice on the island of Nantucket to stop the spread of Lyme disease, reports Stat, a publication of the Boston Globe:
Esvelt hopes to reduce the prevalence of Lyme disease by focusing on the white-footed mouse, which is a critical host for Lyme-carrying ticks. Ticks bite the mice, pick up the bacteria, and then transmit it to other mice and to humans. If scientists can stop Lyme from spreading between the mouse and the tick, then they could break the cycle of transmission and Lyme disease rates might plummet.
To accomplish this, Esvelt’s team would first need to find the genes that prevent some mice from transmitting the Lyme bacterium. By creating and releasing mice with multiple copies of those genes, a population of resistant mice could be established. It would take at least a year to have an effect on the tick populations and infection rates, Esvelt predicts.
.Because GMOs freak some people out (and I would suspect that rich, liberal Nantucket would be an anti-GMO hotbed), the researchers are doing lots of early outreach and trying to be as public and transparent as possible, to avoid the sort of dispute that’s happening in Florida over GMO mosquitoes to fight Zika.