Project: Exploring the concept of adaptive immunity to viruses in mosquitoes

The current Zika virus epidemic attracted public attention to the problem of mosquito- borne viral infections. Vector control is an essential element to prevent disease transmission due to the absence of arbovirus-specific drugs and limited availability of vaccines. Historical vector control methods such as the use of insecticides and environmental control are facing challenges due to the wide spread of insecticide resistance throughout natural mosquito populations and the complexity of breeding site elimination in the modern urban environment. Novel genetics-based strategies are emerging as promising complement to historical mosquito control methods. One idea is to genetically-manipulate the vectors so that they become unable to support pathogen infection, replication or transmission. The development of these novel transmission-blocking interventions requires in-depth insights into how mosquito vectors interact with and transmit arboviruses. It is thought that the immune system influences the efficiency by which mosquitoes transmit specific viruses. Recently, a novel immune response was identified that recognizes viral RNA and breaks it down into small fragments. In this project, the investigators will study whether mosquitoes from different locations across the globe differ in this immune response. Moreover, they will analyze how these differences influence transmission of the epidemic Dengue and Zika viruses. The multi-disciplinary research team includes experts in mosquito evolution and genomics, entomology, and virology, allowing a complementary approach to address the research aims. The proposed project will have immediate and profound implications for public health and may lead to novel mosquito control strategies.

Related Publicatons
  1. Souza-Neto JA1, Powell JR1, Bonizzoni M.1 2019. Aedes aegypti vector competence studies: A review.
    Infection, Genetics and Evolution. 10.1016/j.meegid.2018.11.009

    Author information:
    1São Paulo State University (UNESP), School of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Bioprocesses and Biotechnology, Multiuser Central Laboratory, Botucatu, Brazil
    2São Paulo State University (UNESP), Institute of Biotechnology, Botucatu, Brazil
    3Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
    4Department of Biology and Biotechnology, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
    Electronic address:

    ABSTRACT: Aedes aegypti is the primary transmitter of the four viruses that have had the greatest impact on human health, the viruses causing yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, and Zika fever. Because this mosquito is easy to rear in the laboratory and these viruses grow in laboratory tissue culture cells, many studies have been performed testing the relative competence of different populations of the mosquito to transmit many different strains of viruses. We review here this large literature including studies on the effect of the mosquito microbiota on competence. Because of the heterogeneity of both mosquito populations and virus strains used, as well as methods measuring potential to transmit, it is very difficult to perform detailed meta-analysis of the studies. However, a few conclusions can be drawn: (1) almost no population of Ae. aegypti is 100% naturally refractory to virus infection. Complete susceptibility to infection has been observed for Zika (ZIKV), dengue (DENV) and chikungunya (CHIKV), but not yellow fever viruses (YFV); (2) the dose of virus used is directly correlated to the rate of infection; (3) Brazilian populations of mosquito are particularly susceptible to DENV-2 infections; (4) the Asian lineage of ZIKV is less infective to Ae. aegypti populations from the American continent than is the African ZIKV lineage; (5) virus adaptation to different species of mosquitoes has been demonstrated with CHIKV; (6) co-infection with more than one virus sometimes causes displacement while in other cases has little effect; (7) the microbiota in the mosquito also has important effects on level of susceptibility to arboviral infection; (8) resistance to virus infection due to the microbiota may be direct (e.g., bacteria producing antiviral proteins) or indirect in activating the mosquito host innate immune system; (9) non-pathogenic insect specific viruses (ISVs) are also common in mosquitoes including genome insertions. These too have been shown to have an impact on the susceptibility of mosquitoes to pathogenic viruses. One clear conclusion is that it would be a great advance in this type of research to implement standardized procedures in order to obtain comparable and reproducible results.

    Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.meegid.2018.11.009