Assessing vector competence for Indiana mosquito populations

Understanding mosquito-borne diseases

Close up of a mosquito on an arm.
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Mosquito-transmitted viruses represent a significant threat to Indiana residents and livestock. Changes in the geographic distribution of mosquito species, aided by a changing climate, is leading to new distributions of mosquito-transmitted viruses, such as the West Nile Virus and eastern equine encephalitis.

IU Associate Professor Irene Newton and her team are investigating the prevalence of disease-causing pathogens in Indiana’s native mosquito populations and examining the presence of Wolbachia pipientis, a bacterium commonly found in mosquitoes that is known to inhibit virus replication.

In conjunction with Project Vector Shield, mosquitos are being collected at numerous sites in south-central Indiana in both urban and rural settings. Mosquitoes are sorted by species and screened for the presence of disease-causing viruses and the presence of Wolbachia, allowing the team to determine if mosquitos infected with native Wolbachia strains are less likely to harbor viruses.

In parallel with the screening studies, the team aims to establish colonies of locally collected mosquitoes harboring Wolbachia to study the virus-blocking capacity of the bacterium in a lab environment. The results of this study will allow for an accurate assessment of the risks mosquito-borne diseases present to Hoosiers and a deeper understanding of how to mitigate that risk.