The Fight against the Invasive Oak Processionary Caterpillar

MSP-Maastricht iGEM Team 2020

We are a team of 13 undergraduate Maastricht University students who competed in the international iGEM competition. We are genetically engineering bacteria to create an environmentally friendly biopesticide to fight the invasive Oak Processionary Caterpillar (OPC). The OPC is becoming a bigger environmental problem and health issue to humans every year due to their allergenic hairs and their infestation of oak trees. Due to the rising temperatures in Europe, the OPC has been able to spread far from its natural habitat in the South, to all over The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.  Current pesticides used to remove this invasive species are environmentally harmful, ineffective and costly. Due to their inspecificity, many of these pesticides cannot be sprayed in rural areas where the OPC invasion is at its worst as it kills other already endangered caterpillars. Hence, using RNA interference technology we aim to create a biopesticide based on bacterial expression of siRNA targeted against essential genes in the OPC genome. This will ensure high specificity, preventing further damage to the environment. 

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