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Evol Appl. 2015 Sep;8(8):751-68. doi: 10.1111/eva.12286. Epub 2015 Jul 20.

Wolbachia strains for disease control: ecological and evolutionary considerations.

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Pest and Environmental Adaptation Research Group, School of BioSciences, Bio21 Institute, The University of Melbourne Parkville, Vic., Australia.


Wolbachia are endosymbionts found in many insects with the potential to suppress vectorborne diseases, particularly through interfering with pathogen transmission. Wolbachia strains are highly variable in their effects on hosts, raising the issue of which attributes should be selected to ensure that the best strains are developed for disease control. This depends on their ability to suppress viral transmission, invade host populations, persist without loss of viral suppression and not interfere with other control strategies. The potential to achieve these objectives is likely to involve evolutionary constraints; viral suppression may be limited by the ability of infections to spread due to deleterious host fitness effects. However, there are exceptions to these patterns in both natural infections and in novel associations generated following interspecific transfer, suggesting that pathogen blockage, deleterious fitness effects and changes to reproductive biology might be at least partly decoupled to achieve ideal infection attributes. The stability of introduced Wolbachia and its effects on viral transmission remain unclear, but rapid evolutionary changes seem unlikely. Although deliberate transfers of Wolbachia across species remain particularly challenging, the availability of strains with desirable attributes should be expanded, taking advantage of the diversity available across thousands of strains in natural populations.


Aedes; Wolbachia; deployment issues; disease control; fitness; strain attributes; virus

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