Identification of Spiroplasma insolitum symbionts in Anopheles gambiae

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Background: Insect symbionts have the potential to block the transmission of vector-borne diseases by their hosts. The advancement of a symbiont-based transmission blocking strategy for malaria requires the identification and study of Anopheles symbionts. Methods: High throughput 16S amplicon sequencing was used to profile the bacteria associated with Anopheles gambiae sensu lato and identify potential symbionts. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with specific primers were subsequently used to monitor symbiont prevalence in field populations, as well as symbiont transmission patterns. Results: We report the discovery of the bacterial symbiont, Spiroplasma, in Anopheles gambiae in Kenya. We determine that geographically dispersed Anopheles gambiae populations in Kenya are infected with Spiroplasma at low prevalence levels. Molecular phylogenetics indicates that this Anopheles gambiae associated Spiroplasma is a member of the insolitum clade. We demonstrate that this symbiont is stably maternally transmitted across at least two generations and does not significantly affect the fecundity or egg to adult survival of its host. Conclusions: In diverse insect species, Spiroplasma has been found to render their host resistant to infection by pathogens. The identification of a maternally transmitted strain of Spiroplasma in Anopheles gambiae may therefore open new lines of investigation for the development of symbiont-based strategies for blocking malaria transmission.




Chepkemoi, S. T., Mararo, E., Butungi, H., Paredes, J., Masiga, D., Sinkins, S. P., & Herren, J. K. (2017). Identification of Spiroplasma insolitum symbionts in Anopheles gambiae. Wellcome Open Research, 2.

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