Research Article: Xenosurveillance: A Novel Mosquito-Based Approach for Examining the Human-Pathogen Landscape

Date Published: March 16, 2015

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Nathan D. Grubaugh, Supriya Sharma, Benjamin J. Krajacich, Lawrence S. Fakoli III, Fatorma K. Bolay, Joe W. Diclaro II, W. Evan Johnson, Gregory D. Ebel, Brian D. Foy, Doug E. Brackney, Remi Charrel.

Abstract: BackgroundGlobally, regions at the highest risk for emerging infectious diseases are often the ones with the fewest resources. As a result, implementing sustainable infectious disease surveillance systems in these regions is challenging. The cost of these programs and difficulties associated with collecting, storing and transporting relevant samples have hindered them in the regions where they are most needed. Therefore, we tested the sensitivity and feasibility of a novel surveillance technique called xenosurveillance. This approach utilizes the host feeding preferences and behaviors of Anopheles gambiae, which are highly anthropophilic and rest indoors after feeding, to sample viruses in human beings. We hypothesized that mosquito bloodmeals could be used to detect vertebrate viral pathogens within realistic field collection timeframes and clinically relevant concentrations.Methodology/Principal FindingsTo validate this approach, we examined variables influencing virus detection such as the duration between mosquito blood feeding and mosquito processing, the pathogen nucleic acid stability in the mosquito gut and the pathogen load present in the host’s blood at the time of bloodmeal ingestion using our laboratory model. Our findings revealed that viral nucleic acids, at clinically relevant concentrations, could be detected from engorged mosquitoes for up to 24 hours post feeding by qRT-PCR. Subsequently, we tested this approach in the field by examining blood from engorged mosquitoes from two field sites in Liberia. Using next-generation sequencing and PCR we were able to detect the genetic signatures of multiple viral pathogens including Epstein-Barr virus and canine distemper virus.Conclusions/SignificanceTogether, these data demonstrate the feasibility of xenosurveillance and in doing so validated a simple and non-invasive surveillance tool that could be used to complement current biosurveillance efforts.

Partial Text: Over the last half century infectious diseases have emerged with increasing frequency [1]. Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) have profound public health and economic consequences as highlighted by the ongoing epidemics of Ebola virus in West Africa [2], MERS coronavirus in the Middle East [3], and chikungunya and West Nile viruses in the Americas [4]. The emergence of these diseases can, in large part, be attributed to the increased frequency and duration of human and livestock interactions with wildlife populations [5]. Greater than 60% of EIDs since 1940 are due to zoonotic infections [1]. Biosurveillance efforts now focus on crucial interfaces (i.e. transmission between animals, initial human spillover events and localized emergence) in order to identify pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential [6,7]. Yet allocation of resources are not always directed towards predicted emerging disease ‘hotspots’ like tropical Africa where relatively few EID events have been documented locally [1]. This is mainly due to difficulties in sample collection, storage and transport from remote and underdeveloped parts of the world. Although a wide array of assays exist to detect emerging pathogens (e.g. [8–10]), novel and inexpensive methods for sample collection and for pathogen detection are needed to use them most effectively.

Blood acquisition is an indispensable activity for the reproduction of most mosquito species. An. gambiae mosquitoes imbibe several times their body weight in blood, and they spend several hours immediately following bloodmeal acquisition undergoing the initial stages of bloodmeal digestion [39]. Consequently the mosquito midgut becomes a highly proteolytic environment that facilitates the degradation of the blood contents over approximately the first 24 hours after blood ingestion [40]. Previous studies have demonstrated that vertebrate pathogens, specifically viruses, can be detected in the bloodmeal of recently engorged mosquitoes [12–14], but the stability and recovery rates of viral RNA after prolonged exposure to the mosquito midgut was undefined. Therefore, we assessed our ability to recover WNV and HIV-1 RNA from An. gambiae and revealed that 12 hours exposure to the midgut environment did not significantly decrease the recovery of viral RNA. However, we did observe a significant reduction in WNV RNA recovery as a result of blood application onto FTA cards. Surprisingly, a similar reduction was not observed for HIV-1. This discrepancy might be explained by the relative stability of each of the viruses [41,42]. Alternatively, there may be differences in the efficiency of binding to and/ or elution from FTA cards between the two viral RNA species. These observations may need further examination to determine if biases are being introduced in future sampling efforts. While there are some discrepancies with viral RNA recovery from FTA cards, overall these findings demonstrate that viral RNA remains mostly protected from the highly proteolytic environment of the mosquito midgut and that mosquitoes can be used to sample viral pathogens in human beings.



0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments