Indexed on: 12 Oct '10Published on: 12 Oct '10Published in: Parasites & Vectors
Genetic modification of mosquitoes offers a promising strategy for the prevention and control of mosquito-borne diseases. For such a strategy to be effective, it is critically important that engineered strains are competitive enough to serve their intended function in population replacement or reduction of wild mosquitoes in nature. Thus far, fitness evaluations of genetically modified strains have not addressed the effects of competition among the aquatic stages and its consequences for adult fitness. We therefore tested the competitive success of combinations of wild, inbred and transgenic (created in the inbred background) immature stages of the dengue vector Aedes aegypti in the presence of optimal and sub-optimal larval diets.The wild strain of Ae. aegypti demonstrated greater performance (based on a composite index of survival, development rate and size) than the inbred strain, which in turn demonstrated greater performance than the genetically modified strain. Moreover, increasing competition through lowering the amount of diet available per larva affected fitness disproportionately: transgenic larvae had a reduced index of performance (95-119%) compared to inbred (50-88%) and wild type larvae (38-54%). In terms of teneral energy reserves (glycogen, lipid and sugar), adult wild type mosquitoes had more reserves directly available for flight, dispersal and basic metabolic functions than transgenic and inbred mosquitoes.Our study provides a detailed assessment of inter- and intra-strain competition across aquatic stages of wild type, inbred, and transgenic mosquitoes and the impact of these conditions on adult energy reserves. Although it is not clear what competitive level is adequate for success of transgenic strains in nature, strong gene drive mechanisms are likely to be necessary in order to overcome competitive disadvantages in the larval stage that carryover to affect adult fitness.