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Isolation, characterization and functional analysis of a bacteriophage targeting Culex pipiens pallens resistance-associated Aeromonas hydrophila.

BACKGROUND: Culex pipiens pallens is a well-known mosquito vector for several diseases. Deltamethrin, a commonly used pyrethroid insecticide, has been frequently applied to manage adult Cx. pipiens pallens. However, mosquitoes can develop resistance to these insecticides as a result of insecticide misuse and, therefore, it is crucial to identify novel methods to control insecticide resistance. The relationship between commensal bacteria and vector resistance has been recently recognized. Bacteriophages (= phages) are effective tools by which to control insect commensal bacteria, but there have as yet been no studies using phages on adult mosquitoes. In this study, we isolated an Aeromonas phage vB AhM-LH that specifically targets resistance-associated symbiotic bacteria in mosquitoes. We investigated the impact of Aeromonas phage vB AhM-LH in an abundance of Aeromonas hydrophila in the gut of Cx. pipiens pallens and its effect on the status of deltamethrin resistance.

METHODS: Phages were isolated on double-layer agar plates and their biological properties analyzed. Phage morphology was observed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) after negative staining. The phage was then introduced into the mosquito intestines via oral feeding. The inhibitory effect of Aeromonas phage vB AhM-LH on Aeromonas hydrophila in mosquito intestines was assessed through quantitative real-time PCR analysis. Deltamethrin resistance of mosquitoes was assessed using WHO bottle bioassays.

RESULTS: An Aeromonas phage vB AhM-LH was isolated from sewage and identified as belonging to the Myoviridae family in the order Caudovirales using TEM. Based on biological characteristics analysis and in vitro antibacterial experiments, Aeromonas phage vB AhM-LH was observed to exhibit excellent stability and effective bactericidal activity. Sequencing revealed that the Aeromonas phage vB AhM-LH genome comprises 43,663 bp (51.6% CG content) with 81 predicted open reading frames. No integrase-related gene was detected in the vB AH-LH genome, which marked it as a potential biological antibacterial. Finally, we found that Aeromonas phage vB AhM-LH could significantly reduce deltamethrin resistance in Cx. pipiens pallens, in both the laboratory and field settings, by decreasing the abundance of Aeromonas hydrophila in their midgut.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings demonstrate that Aeromonas phage vB AhM-LH could effectively modulate commensal bacteria Aeromonas hydrophila in adult mosquitoes, thus representing a promising strategy to mitigate mosquito vector resistance.

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