Academic Seminar: The Invasive Potential of a Defensive Symbiont: Towards field applications to quell vector-borne diseases

There will be an MCR academic seminar this week, on Wednesday the 12th of March at 7:30pm in the TV room.

This week’s speaker will be Suzan Ok, and her topic will cover symbiotic relations that can provide antiviral protection in fruit flies! See below:

The Invasive Potential of a Defensive Symbiont: Towards field
applications to quell vector-borne diseases
Symbiotic relationships between organisms are a common trend in nature. They involve a symbiont that interacts with a host either externally or internally. For example, bacteria may reside in the gut and aid digestion, produce bioluminescence in deep-sea marine organisms, or manipulate the host phenotype in a way that favours their own transmission. For my research, I am studying the effects of the endosymbiont Wolbachia on a fruit fly host, Drosophila simulans. Wolbachia is an intracellular, maternally transmitted bacterium found in many arthropod species, and it can have both mutualistic and parasitic effects. Certain strains confer antiviral protection on their insect host, but some also manipulate host reproduction by inducing cytoplasmic incompatibility, which enables them to spread through the host population. Wolbachia is therefore a promising tool to limit vector-borne diseases. For example, it could be introduced into mosquito populations to limit the spread of viruses such as Dengue or Chikungunya viruses. However, the success of such a strategy depends on the choice of an optimal strain that should combine both strong protection against viruses and high invasive potential. Higher maternal transmission rate and strong cytoplasmic incompatibility are associated with a higher invasive potential, whereas any induced cost on the host fitness will tend to slow down or prevent the spread of Wolbachia through the host population. The goal of my research is to determine the invasive potential of a panel of Wolbachia strains, previously tested for their antiviral properties, in order to identify suitable strains for potential applications in the field.