Wolbachia strain wAlbB maintains high density and dengue inhibition following introduction into a field population of Aedes aegypti

N. A. Ahmad, M.-V. Mancini, T. H. Ant, J. Martinez, G. M. R. Kamarul, W. A. Nazni, A. A. Hoffmann and S. P. Sinkins,  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,  376:20190809. 2020.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carrying the wAlbB Wolbachia strain show a reduced capacity to transmit dengue virus. wAlbB has been introduced into wild Ae. aegypti populations in several field sites in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where it has persisted at high frequency for more than 2 years and significantly reduced dengue incidence. Although these encouraging results indicate that wAlbB releases can be an effective dengue control strategy, the long-term success depends on wAlbB maintaining high population frequencies and virus transmission inhibition, and both could be compromised by Wolbachia–host coevolution in the field. Here, wAlbB-carrying Ae. aegypti collected from the field 20 months after the cessation of releases showed no reduction in Wolbachia density or tissue distribution changes compared to a wAlbB laboratory colony. The wAlbB strain continued to induce complete unidirectional cytoplasmic incompatibility, showed perfect maternal transmission under laboratory conditions, and retained its capacity to inhibit dengue. Additionally, a field-collected wAlbB line was challenged with Malaysian dengue patient blood, and showed significant blocking of virus dissemination to the salivary glands. These results indicate that wAlbB continues to inhibit currently circulating strains of dengue in field populations of Ae. aegypti, and provides additional support for the continued scale-up of Wolbachia wAlbB releases for dengue control.

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