How one bacterium could fight mosquito-borne diseases

From The California Aggie
April 13, 2018

Certain wolbachia strains could spread rapidly through mosquito populations, block transmittance of viruses to humans, UC Davis study shows

Wolbachia, a parasitic microbe found in up to two-thirds of insects, was discovered only a few decades ago and is not fully understood. A new study from UC Davis analyzed the interspecific spread of Wolbachia across different species of fruit flies. The bacteria’s ability to select for infected offspring and provide immune benefits to its host allows it to spread rapidly throughout populations.

“Wolbachia don’t necessarily spread through increasing relative fitness of their hosts, rather they interfere with reproductive abilities,” said Kevin Kim, an undergraduate biochemistry major and co-author of the study, in an email. “During host reproduction, wolbachia are transmitted via the mother to their offspring, so male-killing Wolbachia increase the rate of production of infected females, which can go on to produce infected offspring. Similarly, [cytoplasmic incompatibility] prevents uninfected females from producing their ‘maximum’ number of offspring — except in cases where both parents are uninfected — and thus promotes the spread of wolbachia.”

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