Characterization and tissue tropism of newly identified iflavirus and negeviruses in Glossina morsitans morsitans tsetse flies

Irene K. Meki, Hannah Isadora Huditz, Anton Strunov, René A.A. van der Vlugt, Henry M. Kariithi, Mohammadreza Rezapanah, Wolfgang J. Miller, Just M. Vlak, Monique M. van Oers, Adly M.M. Abd-Alla*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Tsetse flies cause major health and economic problems as they transmit trypanosomes causing sleeping sickness in humans (Human African Trypanosomosis, HAT) and nagana in ani-mals (African Animal Trypanosomosis, AAT). A solution to control the spread of these flies and their associated diseases is the implementation of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT). For successful application of SIT, it is important to establish and maintain healthy insect colonies and produce flies with competitive fitness. However, mass production of tsetse is threatened by covert virus infections, such as the Glossina pallidipes salivary gland hypertrophy virus (GpSGHV). This virus infection can switch from a covert asymptomatic to an overt symptomatic state and cause the collapse of an entire fly colony. Although the effects of GpSGHV infections can be mitigated, the presence of other covert viruses threaten tsetse mass production. Here we demonstrated the presence of two single-stranded RNA viruses isolated from Glossina morsitans morsitans originating from a colony at the Seibersdorf rearing facility. The genome organization and the phylogenetic analysis based on the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) revealed that the two viruses belong to the genera Iflavirus and Negevirus, respectively. The names proposed for the two viruses are Glossina morsitans mor-sitans iflavirus (GmmIV) and Glossina morsitans morsitans negevirus (GmmNegeV). The GmmIV genome is 9685 nucleotides long with a poly(A) tail and encodes a single polyprotein processed into structural and non-structural viral proteins. The GmmNegeV genome consists of 8140 nucleotides and contains two major overlapping open reading frames (ORF1 and ORF2). ORF1 encodes the largest protein which includes a methyltransferase domain, a ribosomal RNA methyltransferase domain, a helicase domain and a RdRp domain. In this study, a selective RT-qPCR assay to detect the presence of the negative RNA strand for both GmmIV and GmmNegeV viruses proved that both viruses replicate in G. m. morsitans. We analyzed the tissue tropism of these viruses in G. m. morsitans by RNA-FISH to decipher their mode of transmission. Our results demonstrate that both viruses can be found not only in the host’s brain and fat bodies but also in their reproductive organs, and in milk and salivary glands. These findings suggest a potential horizontal viral transmission during feeding and/or a vertically viral transmission from parent to offspring. Although the impact of GmmIV and GmmNegeV in tsetse rearing facilities is still unknown, none of the currently infected tsetse species show any signs of disease from these viruses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2472
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • FISH
  • Iflaviridae
  • Mass rearing
  • RNA viruses
  • Stellaris probes
  • Sterile insect technique


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