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Developing Wolbachia-based disease interventions for an extreme environment.

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Elfekih, Samia 
Collier, Sophie 
Klein, Melissa J 
Lee, Su Shyan 


Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carrying self-spreading, virus-blocking Wolbachia bacteria are being deployed to suppress dengue transmission. However, there are challenges in applying this technology in extreme environments. We introduced two Wolbachia strains into Ae. aegypti from Saudi Arabia for a release program in the hot coastal city of Jeddah. Wolbachia reduced infection and dissemination of dengue virus (DENV2) in Saudi Arabian mosquitoes and showed complete maternal transmission and cytoplasmic incompatibility. Wolbachia reduced egg hatch under a range of environmental conditions, with the Wolbachia strains showing differential thermal stability. Wolbachia effects were similar across mosquito genetic backgrounds but we found evidence of local adaptation, with Saudi Arabian mosquitoes having lower egg viability but higher adult desiccation tolerance than Australian mosquitoes. Genetic background effects will influence Wolbachia invasion dynamics, reinforcing the need to use local genotypes for mosquito release programs, particularly in extreme environments like Jeddah. Our comprehensive characterization of Wolbachia strains provides a foundation for Wolbachia-based disease interventions in harsh climates.


Acknowledgements: We thank the municipality of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for supporting this research study and facilitating fieldwork and sampling operations which allowed us to have access and build wild mosquito colonies. We thank Nancy Endersby-Harshman for facilitating the import of mosquito populations into the quarantine insectary. We thank Meng-Jia Lau for advice on primers and Véronique Paris for assistance with colony maintenance. We thank Kim R Blasdell for providing lab assistance at ACDP. The authors acknowledge the capabilities of the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness in undertaking this research, including infrastructure funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.

Funder: CSIRO; Grant(s): WBS: R-91040-11


Research Article, Biology and life sciences, Medicine and health sciences, Earth sciences

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PLoS Pathog

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Public Library of Science (PLoS)
KACST-CSIRO co-investment (ETSC&KACST-CSIRO-2018-12-30-21)
National Health and Medical Research Council (1132412)
National Health and Medical Research Council (1118640)