June 20, 2011

Researchers Creating Master List Of Insect Genomes

Fifty-billion dollars are spent annually around the globe on insect eradication and control. Now researchers are hoping to create targeted solutions to specific insects that do not include the killing of helpful species, reports BBC News.

With the costs of genome sequencing falling substantially, it is now feasible to cheaply sequence large numbers of animals and plants. The 5000 Insect and Other Arthropod Genome Initiative will point researchers towards vulnerable regions of insects' genomes, which could be targeted with pesticides.

Among the list of agriculturally important insects and other arthropods to be sequenced are handfuls of bugs that act as disease vectors. By comparing the genomes of these insects with those of their close relatives that don't carry pathogens, researchers hope to pinpoint the genes that make one insect a disease-vector and another not.

Daniel Lawson, a coordinator at the European Bioinformatics Institute explained to BBC: "We hope that generating this data will lead to better models for insecticide resistance, better models for developing new pesticides, better models for understanding transmission of disease, or for control of agricultural pests."

"Moving into the genetics era revolutionizes what you can do, what you can try to assay in your species, what you can infer from your experiments."

What's more, knowing the genes involved will help researchers better predict how insect immune systems will evolve in response to biopesticide control measures, such as Beauveria bassiana, a fungus used to control mosquitoes in malaria-ridden countries in Africa.

Scientists hope that suitable compounds can be developed for use as pesticides that kill a targeted pest but leave the beneficial pollinating insects that also visit the crop plants unharmed.


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