Limited association between Wolbachia and Plasmodium falciparum infections in natural populations of the major malaria mosquito Anopheles moucheti

Théo Mouillaud, Audric Berger, Marie Buysse, Nil Rahola, Josquin Daron, Jean-Pierre Agbor, Sandrine N. Sango, Daniel E. Neafsey, Olivier Duron, Diego Ayala,  Evolutionary Applications,  16:1999-2006. 2024.

Since the discovery of natural malaria vector populations infected by the endosymbiont bacterium Wolbachia, a renewed interest has arisen for using this bacterium as an alternative for malaria control. Among naturally infected mosquitoes, Anopheles moucheti, a major malaria mosquito in Central Africa, exhibits one of the highest prevalences of Wolbachia infection. To better understand whether this maternally inherited bacterium could be used for malaria control, we investigated Wolbachia influence in An. moucheti populations naturally infected by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. To this end, we collected mosquitoes in a village from Cameroon, Central Africa, where this mosquito is the main malaria vector. We found that the prevalence of Wolbachia bacterium was almost fixed in the studied mosquito population, and was higher than previously recorded. We also quantified Wolbachia in whole mosquitoes and dissected abdomens, confirming that the bacterium is also elsewhere than in the abdomen, but at lower density. Finally, we analyzed the association of Wolbachia presence and density on P. falciparum infection. Wolbachia density was slightly higher in mosquitoes infected with the malaria parasite than in uninfected mosquitoes. However, we observed no correlation between the P. falciparum and Wolbachia densities. In conclusion, our study indicates that naturally occurring Wolbachia infection is not associated to P. falciparum development within An. moucheti mosquitoes.


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