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Modeling the Transmission of Wolbachia in Mosquitoes for Controlling Mosquito-Borne Diseases.

Abstract

We develop and analyze an ordinary differential equation model to quantify the effectiveness of different approaches in creating a sustained infection of Wolbachia bacteria in wild mosquitoes. Wolbachia is a natural parasitic microbe that can reduce the ability of mosquitoes to spread mosquito-borne viral diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya, and Zika. It is difficult to sustain an infection of the maternal transmitted Wolbachia in a wild mosquito population because of the reduced fitness of the Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes and cytoplasmic incompatibility limiting maternal transmission. The infection will only persist if the fraction of the infected mosquitoes exceeds a minimum threshold. Our two-sex mosquito model captures the complex transmission cycle by accounting for heterosexual transmission, multiple pregnant states for female mosquitoes, and the aquatic-life stage. We identify important dimensionless numbers and analyze the critical threshold condition for obtaining a sustained Wolbachia infection in the natural population. This threshold effect is characterized by a backward bifurcation with three coexisting equilibria of the system of differential equations: a stable disease-free equilibrium, an unstable intermediate-infection endemic equilibrium, and a stable high-infection endemic equilibrium. We perform sensitivity analysis on epidemiological and environmental parameters to determine their relative importance to Wolbachia transmission and prevalence. We also compare the effectiveness of different integrated mitigation strategies and observe that the most efficient approach to establish the Wolbachia infection is to first reduce the natural mosquitoes and then release both infected males and pregnant females. The initial reduction of natural population could be accomplished by either residual spraying or ovitraps.

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