Enhancing the scalability of Wolbachia-based vector-borne disease management: time and temperature limits for storage and transport of Wolbachia-infected Aedes aegypti eggs for field releases

M. J. Allman, Y. H. Lin, D. A. Joubert, J. Addley-Cook, M. C. Mejía-Torres, C. P. Simmons, H. A. Flores and J. E. Fraser,  Parasit Vectors,  16:108. 2023.

BACKGROUND: Introgression of the bacterial endosymbiont Wolbachia into Aedes aegypti populations is a biocontrol approach being used to reduce arbovirus transmission. This requires mass release of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes. While releases have been conducted using a variety of techniques, egg releases, using water-soluble capsules containing mosquito eggs and larval food, offer an attractive method due to its potential to reduce onsite resource requirements. However, optimisation of this approach is required to ensure there is no detrimental impact on mosquito fitness and to promote successful Wolbachia introgression. METHODS: We determined the impact of storage time and temperature on wild-type (WT) and Wolbachia-infected (wMel or wAlbB strains) Ae. aegypti eggs. Eggs were stored inside capsules over 8 weeks at 18 °C or 22 °C and hatch rate, emergence rate and Wolbachia density were determined. We next examined egg quality and Wolbachia density after exposing eggs to 4-40 °C to determine how eggs may be impacted if exposed to extreme temperatures during shipment. RESULTS: Encapsulating eggs for 8 weeks did not negatively impact egg viability or resulting adult emergence and Wolbachia density compared to controls. When eggs were exposed to temperatures within 4-36 °C for 48 h, their viability and resulting adult Wolbachia density were maintained; however, both were significantly reduced when exposed to 40 °C. CONCLUSIONS: We describe the time and temperature limits for maintaining viability of Wolbachia-infected Ae. aegypti eggs when encapsulated or exposed to extreme temperatures. These findings could improve the efficiency of mass releases by providing transport and storage constraints to ensure only high-quality material is utilised during field releases.

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