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Colonization of the tsetse fly midgut with commensal Enterobacter inhibits trypanosome infection establishment

By Brian L Weiss, Michele A. Maltz, Aurélien Vigneron, Yineng Wu, Katharine Walter, Michelle B. O’Neill, Jingwen Wang, Serap Aksoy

Posted 16 Nov 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/472373

Tsetse flies (Glossina spp.) vector pathogenic trypanosomes (Trypanosoma spp.) in sub-Saharan Africa. These parasites cause human and animal African trypanosomiases, which are debilitating diseases that inflict an enormous socio-economic burden on inhabitants of endemic regions. Current disease control strategies rely primarily on treating infected animals and reducing tsetse population densities. However, relevant programs are costly, labor intensive and difficult to sustain. As such, novel strategies aimed at reducing tsetse vector competence require development. Herein we investigated whether an Enterobacter bacterium (Esp_Z), which confers Anopheles gambiae with resistance to Plasmodium, is able to colonize tsetse and induce a trypanosome refractory phenotype in the fly. Esp_Z established stable infections in tsetse’s gut, and exhibited no adverse effect on the survival of individuals from either group. Flies with established Esp_Z infections in their gut were significantly more refractory to infection with two distinct trypanosome species (T. congolense, 6% infection; T. brucei, 32% infection) than were age-matched flies that did not house the exogenous bacterium (T. congolense, 36% infected; T. brucei, 70% infected). Additionally, 52% of Esp_Z colonized tsetse survived infection with entomopathogenic Serratia marcescens, compared with only 9% of their wild-type counterparts. These parasite and pathogen refractory phenotypes result from the fact that Esp_Z acidifies tsetse’s midgut environment, which inhibits trypanosome and Serratia growth and thus infection establishment. Finally, we determined that Esp_Z infection does not impact the fecundity of male or female tsetse, nor the ability of male flies to compete with their wild-type counterparts for mates. We propose that Esp_Z could be used as one component of an integrated strategy aimed at reducing the ability of tsetse to transmit pathogenic trypanosomes.

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