Wolbachia and Virus Protection in Insects

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Science  31 Oct 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5902, pp. 702
DOI: 10.1126/science.1162418

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Wolbachia pipientis bacteria are common endosymbionts of insects that are best known for their ability to increase their prevalence in populations by manipulating host reproductive systems. However, there are examples of Wolbachia that exist in nature that seem to induce no reproductive parasitism trait and yet are able to invade populations. We demonstrate a fitness benefit for Wolbachia-infected insects that may explain this paradox. Drosophila melanogaster flies infected with Wolbachia are less susceptible to mortality induced by a range of RNA viruses. The antiviral protection associated with Wolbachia infection might be exploited in future strategies to reduce transmission of pathogens by insects.

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