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It's a boy: Controlling pest populations with modified males

 Populations of New World screwworm flies -- devastating parasitic livestock pests in Western Hemisphere tropical regions -- could be greatly suppressed with the introduction of male flies that produce only males when they mate, according to new research from North Carolina State University, the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, the Panama-United States Commission for the Eradication and Prevention of Screwworm (COPEG) and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Photo Credit: Max Scott, NC State University

Withholding tetracycline in the larval diet essentially means "It's a boy" when the genetically modified male flies successfully mate with females in the field, says Max Scott, an NC State entomologist who is the corresponding author of a paper describing the research.

"Genetic suppression of a pest population is more efficient if only males survive, so we manipulated screwworm genes to promote a female-lethal system that works when a common antibiotic is not provided at larval stages," Scott said. "If we feed the larvae the antibiotic both male and female survive and are as fit as the wild type strain."

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