wMel replacement of dengue-competent mosquitoes is robust to near-term change

V. N. Vásquez, L. M. Kueppers, G. Rašić and J. M. Marshall,  Nature Climate Change,  13:848-855. 2023.

Rising temperatures are impacting the range and prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases. A promising biocontrol technology replaces wild mosquitoes with those carrying the virus-blocking Wolbachia bacterium. Because the most widely used strain, wMel, is adversely affected by heat stress, we examined how global warming may influence wMel-based replacement. We simulated interventions in two locations with successful field trials using Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 climate projections and historical temperature records, integrating empirical data on wMel’s thermal sensitivity into a model of Aedes aegypti population dynamics to evaluate introgression and persistence over one year. We show that in Cairns, Australia, climatic futures necessitate operational adaptations for heatwaves exceeding two weeks. In Nha Trang, Vietnam, projected heatwaves of three weeks and longer eliminate wMel under the most stringent assumptions of that symbiont’s thermal limits. We conclude that this technology is generally robust to near-term (2030s) climate change. Accelerated warming may challenge this in the 2050s and beyond.

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