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Wolbachia infection is widespread in brackish and fresh water Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) in the coastal Jaffna peninsula of northern Sri Lanka

1 Department of Zoology, University of Jaffna, Jaffna 40000, Sri Lanka
2 Department of Geography, University of Jaffna, Jaffna 40000, Sri Lanka

Correspondence Address:
SN Surendran,
Department of Zoology, University of Jaffna, Jaffna 40000, Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-9062.361165

Background & objectives: Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti are important vectors of dengue and many other arboviral diseases in tropical and sub-tropical locations. Both vectors are tolerant of salinity in the dengue-endemic coastal Jaffna peninsula of northern Sri Lanka. Aedes albopictus pre-imaginal stages are found in field brackish water habitats of up to 14 parts per thousand (ppt, mgL-1) salt in the Jaffna peninsula. Salinity-tolerance in Aedes is characterized by significant genetic and physiological changes. Infection with the wMel strain of the endosymbiont bacterium Wolbachia pipientis reduces dengue transmission in the field by Ae. aegypti, and the same approach is also being considered for Ae. albopictus. In this context, we investigated natural Wolbachia infections in brackish and fresh water field isolates of Ae. albopictus in the Jaffna district. Methods: Aedes albopictus collected as pre-imaginal stages using conventional ovitraps in the Jaffna peninsula and adjacent islands of the Jaffna district were screened by PCR utilizing strain-transcending primers for the presence of Wolbachia. Wolbachia strains were then further identified by PCR using strain-specific primers for the Wolbachia surface protein gene wsp. The Jaffna wsp sequences were compared by phylogenetic analysis with other wsp sequences available in Genbank. Results: Aedes albopictus were found to be widely infected with the wAlbA and wAlbB strains of Wolbachia in Jaffna. The partial wAlbB wsp surface protein gene sequence in Jaffna Ae. albopictus was identical to a corresponding sequence from South India but different from that in mainland Sri Lanka. Interpretation & conclusion: Widespread infection of salinity-tolerant Ae. albopictus with Wolbachia is a factor to be considered when developing Wolbachia-based dengue control in coastal areas like the Jaffna peninsula.

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