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Clin Microbiol Rev. 1996 Jul;9(3):301-20.

Genetic variation in arthropod vectors of disease-causing organisms: obstacles and opportunities.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Canada.


An overview of the genetic variation in arthropods that transmit pathogens to vertebrates is presented, emphasizing the genetics of vector-pathogen relationships and the biochemical genetics of vectors. Vector-pathogen interactions are reviewed briefly as a prelude to a discussion of the genetics of susceptibility and refractoriness in vectors. Susceptibility to pathogens is controlled by maternally inherited factors, sex-linked dominant alleles, and dominant and recessive autosomal genes. There is widespread interpopulation (including intercolony) and temporal variation in susceptibility to pathogens. The amount of biochemical genetic variation in vectors is similar to that found in other invertebrates. However, the amount varies widely among species, among populations within species, and temporally within populations. Biochemical genetic studies show that there is considerable genetic structuring of many vectors at the local, regional, and global levels. It is argued that genetic variation in vectors is critical in understanding vector-pathogen interactions and that genetic variation in vectors creates both obstacles to and opportunities for application of genetic techniques to the control of vectors.

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