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Controlling schistosomiasis via CRISPR/CAS9-mediated gene drive

Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, EPFL, Richard Grewelle

Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease second only to malaria in its human health and economic impact on tropical nations. For over a century, large efforts to control the disease in effected communities have been met with limited success because elimination requires both treatment of humans and control of the parasite in the environment where it lives in an aquatic snail host.  Recent advances in biotechnology give us another avenue: using naturally-occurring genes in the snails to resist new infections, reducing disease in humans by reducing infections in snails. These genes can be modified to spread at twice the usual rate in future snail generations. Understanding the potential of this technology to control schistosomiasis requires in-depth study of the epidemiology of the disease as well as the genetics of the parasite and snail. Through my collaboration with partners in the Rinaldo lab at EPFL, I will model the outcome of using this approach to control schistosomiasis. It is imperative to incorporate realistic details of the snail ecology and snail-human transmission patterns to give informative results. I will examine how this new treatment option can be integrated with existing treatment strategies to achieve local elimination of schistosomiasis.

Participants

Lead Researcher(s): 

Advisor: Giulio A. De Leo (Biology and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment

EPFL exchange host: Andrea RinaldoFull Professor, Director of ECHO NAC School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Funding Type: 
EPFL-Stanford Exchange