Chinese scientists have engineered a strain of silkworm resistant to infection by Bombyx mori nucleopolyhedrovirus, a pathogen responsible for up to 80% of non-natural deaths for silkworm. Scientists designed a CRISPR-Cas9 system to recognize and target the viral ie-1 and me53 genes, inducing target-specific cleavage of and broad segment deletion in viral genomes, preventing productive infection.
While silkworms are not animal models considered particularly homologous to humans, this research has real significance for human health. For one, it may provide a means of therapy to bestow immunity to animals with which humans interact frequently. This could be useful in the case of zoonotic diseases such as rabies and filovirus infections. Once the technology reached maturity, it may also find use in human subjects, but would likely be limited for the ethical concerns of human genetic engineering.