Wolbachia reduces virus infection in a natural population of Drosophila

R. Cogni, S. D. Ding, A. C. Pimentel, J. P. Day and F. M. Jiggins,  Communications Biology,  4:1327. 2021.

Wolbachia is a maternally transmitted bacterial symbiont that is estimated to infect approximately half of arthropod species. In the laboratory it can increase the resistance of insects to viral infection, but its effect on viruses in nature is unknown. Here we report that in a natural population of Drosophila melanogaster, individuals that are infected with Wolbachia are less likely to be infected by viruses. By characterising the virome by metagenomic sequencing and then testing individual flies for infection, we found the protective effect of Wolbachia was virus-specific, with the prevalence of infection being up to 15% greater in Wolbachia-free flies. The antiviral effects of Wolbachia may contribute to its extraordinary ecological success, and in nature the symbiont may be an important component of the antiviral defences of insects.

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