A conflict of interests: How do viruses manipulate their mosquito-vector to increase their own transmission?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour

Abstract

Mosquitoes can be hosts for several different pathogens such as Zika virus, West Nile virus, and dengue virus. These viruses are becoming increasing threats to global health. Understanding how these viruses affect their mosquito host is essential for the development of accurate risk assessments and arbovirus surveillance and control.
Hosts and their pathogens are often in conflict for their optimal survival strategy. Because of this some pathogens have evolved ways to manipulate their hosts behaviour. An example of this is dengue virus which reduces the mosquito's biting efficiency. This causes the infected mosquito to have to bite more frequently to reach similar blood repletion, which results in an increased spread of dengue virus. It could also be beneficial for a pathogen to manipulate mosquito temperature preference as the optimal temperature for the mosquito and their pathogen is in many cases not the same.
The aim of this project is therefore to investigate how, and to what extent, viruses can manipulate the temperature preference of their mosquito-vector. This research has three objectives: First, asses the timescale, range, and extent of the manipulation by infecting mosquitoes and letting them choose between different temperatures in a two-chamber apparatus. Second, to model the effects of temperature-preference manipulation by adapting existing temperature extrinsic-incubation-period models. Finally, determine the mechanism of manipulation using RNA interference techniques and physical manipulation.
This research will provide valuable new insights into viral mosquito manipulation and will allow us to create mosquito-behaviour-aware risk models that can be used to focus mosquito surveillance and control efforts.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/T008695/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2028
2749566 Studentship BB/T008695/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 Jet Griep