Although globally malaria mortality rates have fallen by 48% between 2000 and 2015, malaria is still killing an estimated 438,000 people each year. An effective way to alleviate the burden of malaria is to control its vector (malaria mosquitoes) using insecticides. This can be achieved either with insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) or through indoor residual spraying of insecticides (IRS). However, because of rapidly expanding insecticide resistance, there is a need to find alternatives to control the mosquitoes. Entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) could constitute an effective biological control tool, as is able to reduce malaria transmission under laboratory and field conditions. However, fundamental knowledge on the mechanisms and regulation of the infection process of the fungus, as well as insights into the defensive responses of the host insect to EPF, is limited. Therefore, the main goal of this thesis was to study virulence of the entomopathogenic fungus B. bassiana towards malaria mosquitoes using a multidisciplinary approach.
Chapter 2 provides an overview of existing knowledge of genes influencing virulence in EPF, with a special focus on B. bassiana. The infection cycle and virulence mechanisms are discussed, and put in a framework of novel strategies and experimental methods that are needed to better understand virulence and improve the usage of EPF as a biocontrol agent.
The study of natural variation in fungal virulence is a first step towards understanding the genetic mechanisms involved, because it reveals the extent of variation in the different components of virulence and their overall role. Chapter 3 describes the natural variation in virulence for 29 B. bassiana isolates that were tested on malaria mosquitoes. Furthermore, the phenotypic characteristics of the fungal isolates such as sporulation, spore size and growth were evaluated and their relationship with virulence analysed.
Based on the ample natural variation observed in fungal virulence, in Chapter 4, a comparative genomics analysis was performed on five selected isolates of contrasting virulence. In order to understand mechanisms underlying contrasting virulence, a comparison on gene gain/loss, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), secreted proteins, and secondary metabolites was performed. Insight is provided to the magnitude of the complexity of a trait such as virulence and suggests candidate genes that can be further studied using a functional analysis approach.
Chapter 5 focuses on an experimental evolution approach in which B. bassiana was solely using insects as a nutritional source for ten consecutive passages through malaria mosquitoes. Two isolates of B. bassiana that differed in virulence were compared to their respective ancestors, and they were assayed in virulence, fungal outgrowth, mycelial growth rate (MGR), and sporulation. Passage of the entomopathogenic fungi B. bassiana through the insect host resulted in an altered capacity to grow on different substrates while maintaining the ability to kill insects.
Chapter 6 presents a discussion on the main findings of this thesis and describes future perspectives to study virulence of the entomopathogenic fungi Beauveria bassiana in the context of biological control of malaria mosquitoes.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||21 Sep 2016|
|Place of Publication||Wageningen|
|Publication status||Published - 2016|
- beauveria bassiana
- entomogenous fungi
- vector control
- mosquito-borne diseases