Dengue virus is one of the most common mosquito transmitted viruses in the world affecting over 100 countries. The mosquito vector is the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and it is largely successful at carrying the Dengue virus in addition to the Yellow Fever virus and Chikungunya virus. In the field researchers have speculated that mosquitoes chronically infected with the intracellular bacterium Wolbachia are resistant to Dengue infection. A recent study aimed to evaluate this speculation. In order to do so researchers infected several mosquitos with Wolbachia strains wMel and wMelPop and then injected them with blood from Dengue patients. The wMelPop infected mosquitoes showed a strong resistant to Dengue virus. The wMel infected mosquitoes showed less resistance, but it did reduce the viral load in the saliva, rendering the saliva less infectious.
Mathematical evaluations showed that the introduction of wMelPop to a mosquito could decrease it’s R0 and drastically decrease its transmission from 66% to 75%. Further analysis shows that wMelPop mosquito infection at high rates could even completely reduce Dengue transmission by Aedes aegypti in endemic areas. Although wMelPop would decrease the transmission of Dengue transmission in low to moderately endemic areas, this intervention alone wouldn’t be sufficient to completely abate this arboviral infection. Of course these findings need to be evaluated in terms of their ecological and environmental impacts, but the initial studies do show promise.
- Nalani Wakinekona