Rodents as vehicle for delivery of transgenic bacteria to make paratransgenic sand fly vectors of cutaneous leishmaniasis in field condition

Ghassemi, Marzieh Akhavan, Amir Ahmad Zahraei-Ramazani, Alireza Yakhchali, Bagher Arandian, Mohammad Hossein Jafari, Reza Akhlaghi, Maryam Shirani-Bidabadi, Leila Azam, Kamal Koosha, Mona Oshaghi, Mohammad Ali,  Scientific Reports,  13:14912. 2023.

Vector-borne diseases, among them leishmaniasis, cause more than 700,000 deaths annually. The lack of an effective vaccination and the increasing resistance of sand flies to insecticides require the urgent development of innovative approaches to contain the disease. The use of engineered bacteria that express anti-parasite molecules (paratransgenesis) shows much promise. However, a challenge for implementation of this strategy is to devise means to introduce modified bacteria into sand flies in the field. In this study, we use rodent food bait as a delivery strategy to introduce two mCherry-fluorescent bacteria, Serratia AS1 and Enterobacter cloacae, into adult sand flies in field settings. Bacteria-infected food was provided to Rhombomys opimus rodents. These bacteria transiently pass through the rodent alimentary tract and are delivered to larval habitats with the rodent feces. The feces are ingested by sand fly larvae and, in the case of Serratia AS1, are trans-stadially transmitted to adults. This is the first report of targeting delivery of Serratia AS1 in a paratransgenic system to control transmission of leishmaniasis under field condition. This novel strategy shows promise for delivering transgenic bacteria to Leishmania vectors in the field.

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