Stable high-density and maternally inherited Wolbachia infections in Anopheles moucheti and Anopheles demeilloni mosquitoes

T. Walker, S. Quek, C. L. Jeffries, J. Bandibabone, V. Dhokiya, R. Bamou, M. Kristan, L. A. Messenger, A. Gidley, E. A. Hornett, E. R. Anderson, C. Cansado-Utrilla, S. Hegde, C. Bantuzeko, J. C. Stevenson, N. F. Lobo, S. C. Wagstaff, C. A. Nkondjio, S. R.,  Current Biology,  31:2310. 2021.

Wolbachia, a widespread bacterium that can reduce pathogen transmission in mosquitoes, has recently been reported to be present in Anopheles (An.) species. In wild populations of the An. gambiae complex, the primary vectors of Plasmodium malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa, Wolbachia DNA sequences at low density and infection frequencies have been detected. As the majority of studies have used highly sensitive nested PCR as the only method of detection, more robust evidence is required to determine whether Wolbachia strains are established as endosymbionts in Anopheles species. Here, we describe high-density Wolbachia infections in geographically diverse populations of An. moucheti and An. demeilloni. Fluorescent in situ hybridization localized a heavy infection in the ovaries of An. moucheti, and maternal transmission was observed. Genome sequencing of both Wolbachia strains obtained genome depths and coverages comparable to those of other known infections. Notably, homologs of cytoplasmic incompatibility factor (cif) genes were present, indicating that these strains possess the capacity to induce the cytoplasmic incompatibility phenotype, which allows Wolbachia to spread through host populations. These strains should be further investigated as candidates for use in Wolbachia biocontrol strategies in Anopheles aiming to reduce the transmission of malaria.

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