Natural Wolbachia infection in field-collected Anopheles and other mosquito species from Malaysia

Parasit Vectors. 2020 Aug 12;13(1):414. doi: 10.1186/s13071-020-04277-x.


Background: The endosymbiont bacterium Wolbachia is maternally inherited and naturally infects some filarial nematodes and a diverse range of arthropods, including mosquito vectors responsible for disease transmission in humans. Previously, it has been found infecting most mosquito species but absent in Anopheles and Aedes aegypti. However, recently these two mosquito species were found to be naturally infected with Wolbachia. We report here the extent of Wolbachia infections in field-collected mosquitoes from Malaysia based on PCR amplification of the Wolbachia wsp and 16S rRNA genes.

Methods: The prevalence of Wolbachia in Culicinae mosquitoes was assessed via PCR with wsp primers. For some of the mosquitoes, in which the wsp primers failed to amplify a product, Wolbachia screening was performed using nested PCR targeting the 16S rRNA gene. Wolbachia sequences were aligned using Geneious 9.1.6 software, analyzed with BLAST, and the most similar sequences were downloaded. Phylogenetic analyses were carried out with MEGA 7.0 software. Graphs were drawn with GraphPad Prism 8.0 software.

Results: A total of 217 adult mosquitoes representing 26 mosquito species were screened. Of these, infections with Wolbachia were detected in 4 and 15 mosquito species using wsp and 16S rRNA primers, respectively. To our knowledge, this is the first time Wolbachia was detected using 16S rRNA gene amplification, in some Anopheles species (some infected with Plasmodium), Culex sinensis, Culex vishnui, Culex pseudovishnui, Mansonia bonneae and Mansonia annulifera. Phylogenetic analysis based on wsp revealed Wolbachia from most of the mosquitoes belonged to Wolbachia Supergroup B. Based on 16S rRNA phylogenetic analysis, the Wolbachia strain from Anopheles mosquitoes were more closely related to Wolbachia infecting Anopheles from Africa than from Myanmar.

Conclusions: Wolbachia was found infecting Anopheles and other important disease vectors such as Mansonia. Since Wolbachia can affect its host by reducing the life span and provide resistance to pathogen infection, several studies have suggested it as a potential innovative tool for vector/vector-borne disease control. Therefore, it is important to carry out further studies on natural Wolbachia infection in vector mosquitoes' populations as well as their long-term effects in new hosts and pathogen suppression.

Keywords: 16S rRNA; Anopheles; Mosquitoes; Vectors; Wolbachia; wsp gene.

MeSH terms

  • Aedes / microbiology
  • Animals
  • Anopheles / microbiology
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Culex / microbiology
  • Culicidae / microbiology*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Insect Control
  • Malaysia / epidemiology
  • Malvaceae / microbiology
  • Mosquito Vectors / microbiology
  • Pathology, Molecular
  • Phylogeny
  • Prevalence
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Vector Borne Diseases / prevention & control
  • Wolbachia* / genetics
  • Wolbachia* / isolation & purification


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Wsp protein, Wolbachia