Micro-CT imaging of Onchocerca infection of Simulium damnosum s.l. blackflies and comparison of the peritrophic membrane thickness of forest and savannah flies

M. J.R. Hall*, D. Martín-Vega, B. Clark, D. Ghosh, M. Rogers, D. Pigoli, F. B.D. Veriegh, A. Tetteh-Kumah, M. Y. Osei-Atweneboana, R. A. Cheke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
109 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Onchocerciasis is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) caused by Onchocerca Diesing 1841 (Spirurida: Onchocercidae) nematodes transmitted by blackflies. It is associated with poverty and imposes a significant health, welfare and economic burden on many tropical countries. Current methods to visualize infections within the vectors rely on invasive methods. However, using micro-computed tomography techniques, without interference from physical tissue manipulation, we visualized in three dimensions for the first time an L1 larva of an Onchocerca species within the thoracic musculature of a blackfly, Simulium damnosum s.l. Theobald 1903 (Diptera: Simuliidae), naturally infected in Ghana. The possibility that thicker peritrophic membranes in savannah flies could account for their lower parasite loads was not supported, but there were limits to our analysis. While there were no statistically significant differences between the mean thicknesses of the peritrophic membranes, in the anterior, dorsal and ventral regions, of forest and savannah blackflies killed 34–48 min after a blood-meal, the thickness of the peritrophic membrane in the posterior region could not be measured. Micro-computed tomography has the potential to provide novel information on many other parasite/vector systems and impactful images for public engagement in health education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-238
Number of pages8
JournalMedical and Veterinary Entomology
Volume35
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Keywords

  • infection
  • micro-CT
  • Onchocerca
  • peritrophic membrane
  • Simulium

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