The impact of Wolbachia infection on the rate of vertical transmission of dengue virus in Brazilian Aedes aegypti

Etiene Casagrande Pacidônio, Eric Pearce Caragata, Debora Magalhães Alves, João Trindade Marques, Luciano Andrade Moreira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Wolbachia pipientis is a common endosymbiotic bacterium of arthropods that strongly inhibits dengue virus (DENV) infection and transmission in the primary vector, the mosquito Aedes aegypti. For that reason, Wolbachia-infected Ae. aegypti are currently being released into the field as part of a novel strategy to reduce DENV transmission. However, there is evidence that DENV can be transmitted vertically from mother to progeny, and this may help the virus persist in nature in the absence of regular human transmission. The effect of Wolbachia infection on this process had not previously been examined. Results: We challenged Ae. aegypti with different Brazilian DENV isolates either by oral feeding or intrathoracic injection to ensure disseminated infection. We examined the effect of Wolbachia infection on the prevalence of DENV infection, and viral load in the ovaries. For orally infected mosquitoes, Wolbachia decreased the prevalence of infection by 71.29%, but there was no such effect when the virus was injected. Interestingly, regardless of the method of infection, Wolbachia infection strongly reduced DENV load in the ovaries. We then looked at the effect of Wolbachia on vertical transmission, where we observed only very low rates of vertical transmission. There was a trend towards lower rates in the presence of Wolbachia, with overall maximum likelihood estimate of infection rates of 5.04 per 1000 larvae for mosquitoes without Wolbachia, and 1.93 per 1000 larvae for Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes, after DENV injection. However, this effect was not statistically significant. Conclusions: Our data support the idea that vertical transmission of DENV is rare in nature, even in the absence of Wolbachia. Indeed, we observed that vertical transmission rates were low even when the midgut barrier was bypassed, which might help to explain why we only observed a trend towards lower vertical transmission rates in the presence of Wolbachia. Nevertheless, the low prevalence of disseminated DENV infection and lower DENV load in the ovaries supports the hypothesis that the presence of Wolbachia in Ae. aegypti would have an effect on the vertical transmission of DENV in the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number296
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 17 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Aedes aegypti
  • Arbovirus
  • Dengue virus
  • Vertical transmission
  • Wolbachia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • General Veterinary
  • Parasitology


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