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Covert RNA viruses in medflies differ in their mode of transmission and tissue tropism.

UNLABELLED: Numerous studies have demonstrated the presence of covert viral infections in insects. These infections can be transmitted in insect populations via two main routes: vertical from parents to offspring, or horizontal between nonrelated individuals. Thirteen covert RNA viruses have been described in the Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly). Some of these viruses are established in different laboratory-reared and wild medfly populations, although variations in the viral repertoire and viral levels have been observed at different time points. To better understand these viral dynamics, we characterized the prevalence and levels of covert RNA viruses in two medfly strains, assessed the route of transmission of these viruses, and explored their distribution in medfly adult tissues. Altogether, our results indicated that the different RNA viruses found in medflies vary in their preferred route of transmission. Two iflaviruses and a narnavirus are predominantly transmitted through vertical transmission via the female, while a nodavirus and a nora virus exhibited a preference for horizontal transmission. Overall, our results give valuable insights into the viral tropism and transmission of RNA viruses in the medfly, contributing to the understanding of viral dynamics in insect populations.

IMPORTANCE: The presence of RNA viruses in insects has been extensively covered. However, the study of host-virus interaction has focused on viruses that cause detrimental effects to the host. In this manuscript, we uncovered which tissues are infected with covert RNA viruses in the agricultural pest Ceratitis capitata , and which is the preferred transmission route of these viruses. Our results showed that vertical and horizontal transmission can occur simultaneously, although each virus is transmitted more efficiently following one of these routes. Additionally, our results indicated an association between the tropism of the RNA virus and the preferred route of transmission. Overall, these results set the basis for understanding how viruses are established and maintained in medfly populations.

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