Novel Wolbachia-transinfected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes possess diverse fitness and vector competence phenotypes

Johanna E. Fraser, Jyotika Taneja De Bruyne, Iñaki Iturbe-Ormaetxe, Justin Stepnell, Rhiannon L. Burns, Heather A. Flores, Scott L. O’Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Wolbachia pipientis from Drosophila melanogaster (wMel) is an endosymbiotic bacterium that restricts transmission of human pathogenic flaviviruses and alphaviruses, including dengue, Zika, and chikungunya viruses, when introduced into the mosquito vector Aedes aegypti. To date, wMel-infected Ae. aegypti have been released in field trials in 5 countries to evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy for disease control. Despite the success in establishing wMel-infected mosquitoes in wild populations, and the well-characterized antiviral capabilities of wMel, transinfecting different or additional Wolbachia strains into Ae. aegypti may improve disease impact, and perhaps more importantly, could provide a strategy to account for the possible evolution of resistant arboviruses. Here, we report the successful transinfection of Ae. aegypti with the Wolbachia strains wMelCS (D. melanogaster), wRi (D. simulans) and wPip (Culex quinquefasciatus) and assess the effects on Ae. aegypti fitness, cytoplasmic incompatibility, tissue tropism and pathogen blocking in a laboratory setting. The results demonstrate that wMelCS provides a similar degree of protection against dengue virus as wMel following an infectious blood meal, and significantly reduces viral RNA levels beyond that of wMel following a direct challenge with infectious virus in mosquitoes, with no additional fitness cost to the host. The protection provided by wRi is markedly weaker than that of wMelCS, consistent with previous characterisations of these lines in Drosophila, while wPip was found to substantially reduce the fitness of Ae. aegypti. Thus, we determine wMelCS as a key candidate for further testing in field-relevant fitness tests and viremic blood feeding challenges in a clinical setting to determine if it may represent an alternative Wolbachia strain with more desirable attributes than wMel for future field testing.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1006751
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Cite this