Predicting Wolbachia invasion dynamics in Aedes aegypti populations using models of density-dependent demographic traits

Hancock, Penelope A., White, Vanessa L., Ritchie, Scott, Hoffmann, Ary, and Godfray, H. Charles J. (2016) Predicting Wolbachia invasion dynamics in Aedes aegypti populations using models of density-dependent demographic traits. BMC Biology, 14 (96). pp. 1-12.

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Background: Arbovirus transmission by the mosquito Aedes aegypti can be reduced by the introduction and establishment of the endosymbiotic bacteria Wolbachia in wild populations of the vector. Wolbachia spreads by increasing the fitness of its hosts relative to uninfected mosquitoes. However, mosquito fitness is also strongly affected by population size through density-dependent competition for limited food resources. We do not understand how this natural variation in fitness affects symbiont spread, which limits our ability to design successful control strategies.

Results: We develop a mathematical model to predict A. aegypti–Wolbachia dynamics that incorporates larval density-dependent variation in important fitness components of infected and uninfected mosquitoes. Our model explains detailed features of the mosquito–Wolbachia dynamics observed in two independent experimental A. aegypti populations, allowing the combined effects on dynamics of multiple density-dependent fitness components to be characterized. We apply our model to investigate Wolbachia field release dynamics, and show how invasion outcomes can depend strongly on the severity of density-dependent competition at the release site. Specifically, the ratio of released relative to wild mosquitoes required to attain a target infection frequency (at the end of a release program) can vary by nearly an order of magnitude. The time taken for Wolbachia to become established following releases can differ by over 2 years. These effects depend on the relative fitness of field and insectary-reared mosquitoes.

Conclusions: Models of Wolbachia invasion incorporating density-dependent demographic variation in the host population explain observed dynamics in experimental A. aegypti populations. These models predict strong effects of density-dependence on Wolbachia dynamics in field populations, and can assist in the effective use of Wolbachia to control the transmission of arboviruses such as dengue, chikungunya and zika.

Item ID: 47562
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1741-7007
Keywords: Wolbachia, Zika, Dengue, mosquito, Aedes aegypti, density-dependence, Bayesian statistical model, invasion, vector-borne disease, fitness
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© Hancock, et al. 2016 Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Funders: Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship (MCIOF)
Projects and Grants: MCIOF #326551-WOLBACHIA-MOD
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2017 04:34
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420315 One health @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920404 Disease Distribution and Transmission (incl. Surveillance and Response) @ 100%
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