Phage Therapy for Mosquito Larval Control: a Proof-of-Principle Study

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The mosquito microbiota has a profound impact on multiple biological processes ranging from reproduction to disease transmission. Interestingly, the adult mosquito microbiota is largely derived from the larval microbiota, which in turn is dependent on the microbiota of their water habitat. The larval microbiota not only plays a crucial role in larval development but also has a significant impact on the adult stage of the mosquito. By precisely engineering the larval microbiota, it is feasible to alter larval development and other life history traits of the mosquitoes. Bacteriophages, given their host specificity, can serve as a tool for modulating the microbiota. For this proof-of-principle study, we selected representative strains of five common Anopheles mosquito-associated bacterial genera, namely, Enterobacter, Serratia, Pseudomonas, Elizabethkingia, and Asaia. Our results with monoaxenic cultures showed that Anopheles larvae with Enterobacter and Pseudomonas displayed normal larval development with no significant mortality. However, monoaxenic Anopheles larvae with Elizabethkingia showed delayed larval development and higher mortality. Serratia and Asaia gnotobiotic larvae failed to develop past the first instar. We isolated and characterized three novel bacteriophages (EP1, SP1, and EKP1) targeting Enterobacter, Serratia, and Elizabethkingia, respectively, and utilized a previously characterized bacteriophage (GH1) targeting Pseudomonas to modulate larval water microbiota. Gnotobiotic Anopheles larvae with all five bacterial genera showed reduced survival and larval development with the addition of bacteriophages EP1 and GH1, targeting Enterobacter and Pseudomonas, respectively. The effect was synergistic when both EP1 and GH1 were added together. Our results demonstrate a novel application of bacteriophages for mosquito control. IMPORTANCE Mosquitoes are efficient vectors of multiple human and animal pathogens. The biology of mosquitoes is strongly affected by their associated microbiota. Because of the important role of the larval microbiota in mosquito biology, the microbiota can potentially serve as a target for altering mosquito life-history traits. Our study provides proof of principle that bacteriophages can be used as tools to modulate the mosquito larval habitat microbiota and can, in turn, affect larval development and survival. These results highlight the utility of bacteriophages in mosquito microbiota research and also provide a new potential mosquito control tool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Anopheles
  • bacteriophage
  • bacteriophage therapy
  • larval development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Microbiology


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