Wolbachia Infection through Hybridization to Enhance an Incompatible Insect Technique-Based Suppression of Aedes albopictus in Eastern Spain

Cholvi M, Trelis M, Bueno-Marí R, Khoubbane M, Gil R, Marcilla A, Moretti R.,  Insects,  15. 2024.

Wolbachia bacteria occur naturally as symbionts of many insect species and are responsible for various phenomena that modify the hosts’ reproductive biology. Among them, cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) refers to the sterility of eggs produced by crosses between infected males and females that are uninfected or infected by a non-compatible strain of these bacteria. CI can be exploited for vector control by establishing an opportune Wolbachia infection in a laboratory population of a target insect species and then releasing the infected males into the environment as sterilizing agents. In the present work, a suitable Wolbachia strain was introduced into a Spanish population of the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, through hybridization with the laboratory line, ARwP, already tested as an efficient control tool against this vector. The obtained hybrids were compared with the ARwP to ascertain the effects derived from transferring the infection to a different Ae. albopictus population. No significant differences between lines were found regarding survival, female fecundity, and egg fertility. Importantly, the eggs produced by crosses between males of the hybrid lines and unmodified wild females were 99.9% sterile. This result encourages further studies to explore the feasibility of a Wolbachia-based control program against the Asian tiger mosquito in Spain.

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