Wolbachia bacteria have been identified as a tool for reducing the transmission of arboviruses transmitted by Aedes aegypti. Research groups around the world are now mass rearing Wolbachia-infected Ae. aegypti for deliberate release. We investigated the fitness impact of a crucial element of mass rearing: the blood meal required by female Ae. aegypti to lay eggs. Although Ae. aegypti almost exclusively feed on human blood, it is often difficult to use human blood in disease-endemic settings. When females were fed on sheep or pig blood rather than human blood, egg hatch rates decreased in all three lines tested (uninfected, or infected by wMel, or wAlbB Wolbachia). This finding was particularly pronounced when fed on sheep blood, although fecundity was not affected. Some of these effects persisted after an additional generation on human blood. Attempts to keep populations on sheep and pig blood sources only partly succeeded, suggesting that strong adaptation is required to develop a stably infected line on an alternative blood source. There was a decrease in Wolbachia density when Ae. aegypti were fed on non-human blood sources. Density increased in lines kept for multiple generations on the alternate sources but was still reduced relative to lines kept on human blood. These findings suggest that sheep and pig blood will entail a cost when used for maintaining Wolbachia-infected Ae. aegypti. These costs should be taken into account when planning mass release programs.
Keywords: Aedes aegypti; Wolbachia; blood meal; mosquitoes.