Wolbachia pipientis infections in populations of Aedes albopictus in the city of València (Spain): implications for mosquito control

R. Bueno-Marí, R. Domínguez-Santos, M. Trelis, E. Garrote-Sánchez, M. Cholvi, F. Quero de Lera, M. Khoubbane, A. Marcilla and R. Gi,  Revista Española de Salud Pública,  97. 2023.

OBJECTIVE: The presence of Aedes albopictus, of high sanitary and social impact, was first reported in Valencia (Eastern Spain) in 2015. Innovative tools for its control include the use of the endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia pipientis. The release of mosquito males infected with the wPip strain, has proven very promising for large-scale Incompatible Insect Technique (IIT) applications. Before this strategy can be implemented in Valencia, it is important to know whether the natural local mosquito populations are Wolbachia-infected and, if so, identifying the infecting strains/supergroups, these being the objectives of the present work. METHODS: Eggs were collected from the 19 districts of the València city between May and October 2019. A total of 50 lab-reared adult Ae. albopictus individuals were processed and analyzed for Wolbachia detection and molecular characterization. These actions took place within the framework of a collaboration established with the Department of Health and Consumer Affairs of the city council of Valencia. Fisher’s exact test was used to detect the statistical significance of the differences between groups. RESULTS: Our study revealed that 94% of the analyzed samples were naturally infected with Wolbachia. Both wAlbA and wAlbB supergroups were identified, with most samples (72% of the infected ones) carrying co-infections. CONCLUSIONS: These data provide the first characterization of the Wolbachia presence in natural populations of Ae. albopictus in the Mediterranean area of Spain. This information is relevant to evaluate the potential use of Wolbachia strains in order to achieve the suppression of the Asian tiger mosquito populations through massive release of artificially-infected males.

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