The mosquito Aedes aegypti, vector of dengue fever, is a target for control by entomopathogenic fungi. Recent studies by our group have shown the susceptibility of adult A. aegypti to fungal infection by Metarhizium anisopliae. This fungus is currently being tested under field conditions. However, it is unknown whether blood-fed A. aegypti females are equally susceptible to infection by entomopathogenic fungi as sucrose fed females. Insect populations will be composed of females in a range of nutritional states. The fungus should be equally efficient at reducing survival of insects that rest on fungus impregnated surfaces following a blood meal as those coming into contact with fungi before host feeding. This could be an important factor when considering the behavior of A. aegypti females that can blood feed on multiple hosts over a short time period.
Female A. aegypti of the Rockefeller strain and a wild strain were infected with two isolates of the entomopathogenic fungus M. anisopliae (LPP 133 and ESALQ 818) using an indirect contact bioassay at different times following blood feeding. Survival rates were monitored on a daily basis and one-way analysis of variance combined with Duncan's post-hoc test or Log-rank survival curve analysis were used for statistical comparisons of susceptibility to infection.
Blood feeding rapidly reduced susceptibility to infection, determined by the difference in survival rates and survival curves, when females were exposed to either of the two M. anisopliae isolates. Following a time lag which probably coincided with digestion of the blood meal (96-120 h post-feeding), host susceptibility to infection returned to pre-blood fed (sucrose fed) levels.
Reduced susceptibility of A. aegypti to fungi following a blood meal is of concern. Furthermore, engorged females seeking out intra-domicile resting places post-blood feeding, would be predicted to rest for prolonged periods on fungus impregnated black cloths, thus optimizing infection rates. It should be remembered that lowered susceptibility was only a temporary phenomenon and this may not necessarily occur when mosquitoes are infected with other fungal isolates. These results may have implications for field testing of entomopathogenic fungi by our group and further studies should be carried out to better understand the insect-fungus interaction.