Using Wolbachia to eliminate dengue: will the virus fight back?

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Recent field trials have demonstrated that dengue incidence can be substantially reduced by introgressing strains of the endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia into Aedes aegypti mosquito populations. This strategy relies on Wolbachia reducing the susceptibility of Ae. aegypti to disseminated infection by positive-sense RNA viruses like dengue. However, RNA viruses are well known to adapt to antiviral pressures. Here, we review the viral infection stages where selection for Wolbachia-resistant virus variants could occur. We also consider the genetic constraints imposed on viruses that alternate between vertebrate and invertebrate hosts, and the likely selection pressures to which dengue virus might adapt in order to be effectively transmitted by Ae. aegypti that carry Wolbachia. While there are hurdles to dengue viruses developing resistance to Wolbachia, we suggest that long-term surveillance for resistant viruses should be an integral component of Wolbachia-introgression biocontrol programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02203-20
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Aedes aegypti
  • Arbovirus
  • Dengue virus
  • Mechanisms of resistance
  • Wolbachia

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