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Using haematophagous fly blood meals to study the diversity of blood‐borne pathogens infecting wild mammals

Mwakasungula, Solomon and Rougeron, Virginie and Arnathau, Céline and Boundenga, Larson and Miguel, Eve and Boissière, Anne and Jiolle, Davy and Durand, Patrick and Msigwa, Alphonce and Mswata, Sarah and Olotu, Ally and Sterkers, Yvon and Roche, Benjamin and Killeen, Gerard and Cerqueira, Frédérique and Bitome‐Essono, Paul Yannick and Bretagnolle, François and Masanja, Honorati and Paupy, Christophe and Sumaye, Robert and Prugnolle, Franck (2022) 'Using haematophagous fly blood meals to study the diversity of blood‐borne pathogens infecting wild mammals.', Molecular Ecology Resources, 22 (8). pp. 2915-2927.


Many emerging infectious diseases originate from wild animals, so there is a profound need for surveillance and monitoring of their pathogens. However, the practical difficulty of sample acquisition from wild animals tends to limit the feasibility and effectiveness of such surveys. Xenosurveillance, using blood-feeding invertebrates to obtain tissue samples from wild animals and then detect their pathogens, is a promising method to do so. Here, we describe the use of tsetse fly blood meals to determine (directly through molecular diagnostic and indirectly through serology), the diversity of circulating blood-borne pathogens (including bacteria, viruses and protozoa) in a natural mammalian community of Tanzania. Molecular analyses of captured tsetse flies (182 pools of flies totalizing 1728 flies) revealed that the blood meals obtained came from 18 different vertebrate species including 16 non-human mammals, representing approximately 25% of the large mammal species present in the study area. Molecular diagnostic demonstrated the presence of different protozoa parasites and bacteria of medical and/or veterinary interest. None of the six virus species searched for by molecular methods were detected but an ELISA test detected antibodies against African swine fever virus among warthogs, indicating that the virus had been circulating in the area. Sampling of blood-feeding insects represents an efficient and practical approach to tracking a diversity of pathogens from multiple mammalian species, directly through molecular diagnostic or indirectly through serology, which could readily expand and enhance our understanding of the ecology and evolution of infectious agents and their interactions with their hosts in wild animal communities.

Item Type:Article
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
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Publisher statement:This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Date accepted:17 May 2022
Date deposited:06 September 2022
Date of first online publication:25 July 2022
Date first made open access:06 September 2022

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