DENV-1 Titer Impacts Viral Blocking in wMel Aedes aegypti with Brazilian Genetic Background

Corrêa-Antônio, Jessica, Mariana R. David, Dinair Couto-Lima, Gabriela Azambuja Garcia, Milan S. G. Keirsebelik, Rafael Maciel-de-Freitas, and Márcio Galvão Pavan.,  Viruses,  16. 2024.

Several countries have been using Wolbachia deployments to replace highly competent native Aedes aegypti populations with Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes with lower susceptibility to arboviruses such as dengue, Zika, and chikungunya. In Rio de Janeiro, Wolbachia deployments started in 2015 and still present a moderate introgression with a modest reduction in dengue cases in humans (38%). Here, we evaluated the vector competence of wild-type and wMel-infected Ae. aegypti with a Brazilian genetic background to investigate whether virus leakage could contribute to the observed outcomes in Brazil. We collected the specimens in three areas of Rio de Janeiro with distinct frequencies of mosquitoes with wMel strain and two areas with wild Ae. aegypti. The mosquitoes were orally exposed to two titers of DENV-1 and the saliva of DENV-1-infected Ae. aegypti was microinjected into wMel-free mosquitoes to check their infectivity.

When infected with the high DENV-1 titer, the presence of wMel did not avoid viral infection in mosquitoes’ bodies and saliva but DENV-1-infected wMel mosquitoes produced lower viral loads than wMel-free mosquitoes. On the other hand, wMel mosquitoes infected with the low DENV-1 titer were less susceptible to virus infection than wMel-free mosquitoes, although once infected, wMel and wMel-free mosquitoes exhibited similar viral loads in the body and the saliva. Our results showed viral leakage in 60% of the saliva of wMel mosquitoes with Brazilian background; thus, sustained surveillance is imperative to monitor the presence of other circulating DENV-1 strains capable of overcoming the Wolbachia blocking phenotype, enabling timely implementation of action plans.

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