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J Evol Biol. 2012 Jul;25(7):1243-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2012.02519.x. Epub 2012 Apr 25.

Infection with Wolbachia protects mosquitoes against Plasmodium-induced mortality in a natural system.

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Maladies Infectieuses et Vecteurs: Ecologie, Génétique, Evolution et Contrôle, CNRS (UMR 5290), Centre de Recherche IRD, Montpellier, France.


In recent years, there has been a shift in the one host-one parasite paradigm with the realization that, in the field, most hosts are coinfected with multiple parasites. Coinfections are particularly relevant when the host is a vector of diseases, because multiple infections can have drastic consequences for parasite transmission at both the ecological and evolutionary timescales. Wolbachia pipientis is the most common parasitic microorganism in insects, and as such, it is of special interest for understanding the role of coinfections in the outcome of parasite infections. Here, we investigate whether Wolbachia can modulate the effect of Plasmodium on what is, arguably, the most important component of the vectorial capacity of mosquitoes: their longevity. For this purpose, and in contrast to recent studies that have focused on mosquito-Plasmodium and/or mosquito-Wolbachia combinations not found in nature, we work on a Wolbachia-mosquito-Plasmodium triad with a common evolutionary history. Our results show that Wolbachia protects mosquitoes from Plasmodium-induced mortality. The results are consistent across two different strains of Wolbachia and repeatable across two different experimental blocks. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such an effect has been shown for Plasmodium-infected mosquitoes and, in particular, in a natural Wolbachia-host combination. We discuss different mechanistic and evolutionary explanations for these results as well as their consequences for Plasmodium transmission.

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