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

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.

Publish DateFebruary 2, 2023
Last UpdatedFebruary 2, 2023