Wolbachia symbionts hold theoretical promise as a way to drive transgenes into insect vector populations for disease prevention. For simplicity, current models of Wolbachia dynamics and spread ignore ecologically complex factors such as the age structure of vector populations and overlapping vector generations. We developed a model including these factors to assess their impact on the process of Wolbachia spread into populations of three mosquito species (Anopheles gambiae, Aedes aegypti and Culex pipiens). Depending on the mosquito species, Wolbachia parameters, released mosquito life stage and initial age structure of the target population, the number of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes that we predict would need to be released ranged from less than the threshold calculated by the simple model to a 10-30-fold increase. Transgenic releases into age-structured populations, which is an expectation for wild mosquitoes, will be difficult and depending on the circumstances may not be economically or logistically feasible due to the large number of infected mosquitoes that must be released. Our results support the perspective that understanding ecological factors is critical for designing transgenic vector-borne disease control strategies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Insect Science