Lab-scale characterization and semi-field trials of Wolbachia Strain wAlbB in a Taiwan Wolbachia introgressed Ae. aegypti strain

W. L. Liu, H. Y. Yu, Y. X. Chen, B. Y. Chen, S. N. Leaw, C. H. Lin, M. P. Su, L. S. Tsai, Y. Chen, S. H. Shiao, Z. Y. Xi, A. C. C. Jang and C. H. Chen,  PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases,  16:24. 2022.

Prior to open field release, new genetic approaches that interfere with mosquito abilities and reduce mosquito population density require progressive evaluation both in the laboratory and contained field trials. Trials in contained outdoor systems are thus an important step and allow for evaluation of the effectiveness and reliability of Wolbachia-infected Aedes aegypti (wAlbB-Tw) in settings that incorporate natural environmental variations. We describe a semi-field system designed to study the ability of wAlbB-Tw mosquitoes to suppress local mosquito populations. We provide a protocol for establishing, maintaining, and monitoring Ae. aegypti population densities inside field cages. These results pave the way for the open release of wAlbB-Tw-infected Ae. aegypti mosquitoes in the field. Dengue fever is one of the most severe viral diseases transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, with traditional approaches of disease control proving insufficient to prevent significant disease burden. Release of Wolbachia-transinfected mosquitoes offers a promising alternative control methodologies; Wolbachia-transinfected female Aedes aegypti demonstrate reduced dengue virus transmission, whilst Wolbachia-transinfected males cause zygotic lethality when crossed with uninfected females, providing a method for suppressing mosquito populations. Although highly promising, the delicate nature of population control strategies and differences between local species populations means that controlled releases of Wolbachia-transinfected mosquitoes cannot be performed without extensive testing on specific local Ae. aegypti populations. In order to investigate the potential for using Wolbachia to suppress local Ae. aegypti populations in Taiwan, we performed lab-based and semi-field fitness trials. We first transinfected the Wolbachia strain wAlbB into a local Ae. aegypti population (wAlbB-Tw) and found no significant changes in lifespan, fecundity and fertility when compared to controls. In the laboratory, we found that as the proportion of released male mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia was increased, population suppression could reach up to 100%. Equivalent experiments in semi-field experiments found suppression rates of up to 70%. The release of different ratios of wAlbB-Tw males in the semi-field system provided an estimate of the optimal size of male releases. Our results indicate that wAlbB-Tw has significant potential for use in vector control strategies aimed at Ae. aegypti population suppression in Taiwan. Open field release trials are now necessary to confirm that wAlbB-Tw mediated suppression is feasible in natural environments.

More relate to this: