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Immune Activation by Life-Shortening Wolbachia and Reduced Filarial Competence in Mosquitoes

Science  02 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5949, pp. 134-136
DOI: 10.1126/science.1177531

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Mosquito Vector Intervention

Mosquitoes are responsible for causing the infection of an estimated 120 million people with the nematode worms that block the lymph system and result in the gross pathology of elephantiasis and other filariases. Kambris et al. (p. 134) infected vector mosquitoes with a bacterium (Wolbachia), which impaired the insects' ability to act as filaria vectors and possibly would affect transmission of other pathogens, too. The infected mosquitoes were less susceptible to the worms owing to chronic upregulation of mosquito immune responses. Immune activation bears a physiological cost for the mosquitoes, which may explain earlier observations of curtailed life spans of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes.

Abstract

Wolbachia strain wMelPop reduces the longevity of its Drosophila melanogaster host and, when introduced into the mosquito Aedes aegypti, halves its life span. We show that wMelPop induces up-regulation of the mosquito’s innate immune system and that its presence inhibits the development of filarial nematodes in the mosquito. These data suggest that wMelPop could be used in the global effort to eliminate lymphatic filariasis and possibly for the control of other mosquito-borne parasites where immune preactivation inhibits their development. The cost of constitutive immune up-regulation may contribute to the life-shortening phenotype.

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