Investigating the dose-dependency of the midgut escape barrier using a mechanistic model of within-mosquito dengue virus population dynamics.
Johnson RM., Stopard IJ., Byrne HM., Armstrong PM., Brackney DE., Lambert B.
UNLABELLED: Flaviviruses are arthropod-borne (arbo)viruses which can emerge rapidly and cause explosive epidemics of severe disease. Some of the most epidemiologically important flaviviruses, including dengue virus (DENV), Zika virus (ZIKV) and yellow fever virus (YFV), are transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, most notably Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. After a mosquito blood feeds on an infected host, virus enters the midgut and infects the midgut epithelium. The virus must then overcome a series of barriers before reaching the mosquito saliva and being transmitted to a new host. The virus must escape from the midgut (known as the midgut escape barrier; MEB), which is thought to be mediated by transient changes in the permeability of the midgut-surrounding basal lamina layer (BL) following blood feeding. Here, we present a mathematical model of the within-mosquito population dynamics of flaviviruses that includes the interaction of the midgut and BL which can account for the MEB. Our results indicate a dose-dependency of midgut establishment of infection as well as rate of escape from the midgut: collectively, these suggest that the extrinsic incubation period (EIP) - the time taken for DENV virus to be transmissible after infection - is shortened when mosquitoes imbibe more virus. Additionally, our experimental data indicates that multiple blood feeding events, which more closely mimic mosquito-feeding behavior in the wild, can hasten the course of infections, and our model predicts that this effect is sensitive to the amount of virus imbibed. Our model indicates that mutations to the virus which impact its replication rate in the midgut could lead to even shorter EIPs when double-feeding occurs. Mechanistic models of within-vector viral infection dynamics provide a quantitative understanding of infection dynamics and could be used to evaluate novel interventions that target the mosquito stages of the infection. AUTHOR SUMMARY: Aedes mosquitoes are the main vectors of dengue virus (DENV), Zika virus (ZIKV) and yellow fever virus (YFV), all of which can cause severe disease in humans with dengue alone infecting an estimated 100-400 million people each year. Understanding the processes that affect whether, and at which rate, mosquitoes may transmit such viruses is, hence, paramount. Here, we present a mathematical model of virus dynamics within infected mosquitoes. By combining the model with novel experimental data, we show that the course of infection is sensitive to the initial dose of virus ingested by the mosquito. The data also indicates that mosquitoes which blood feed subsequent to becoming infected may be able to transmit infection earlier, which is reproduced in the model. This is important as many mosquito species feed multiple times during their lifespan and, any reduction in time to dissemination will increase the number of days that a mosquito is infectious and so enhance the risk of transmission. Our study highlights the key and complementary roles played by mathematical models and experimental data for understanding within-mosquito virus dynamics.