Barcoded Asaia bacteria enable mosquito in vivo screens and identify novel systemic insecticides and inhibitors of malaria transmission

A. Sturm et al., PLOS Biology 19(12) 2021


This work addresses the need for new chemical matter in product development for control of pest insects and vector-borne diseases. We present a barcoding strategy that enables phe- notypic screens of blood-feeding insects against small molecules in microtiter plate-based arrays and apply this to discovery of novel systemic insecticides and compounds that block malaria parasite development in the mosquito vector. Encoding of the blood meals was achieved through recombinant DNA-tagged Asaia bacteria that successfully colonised Aedes and Anopheles mosquitoes.

An arrayed screen of a collection of pesticides showed that chemical classes of avermectins, phenylpyrazoles, and neonicotinoids were enriched for compounds with systemic adulticide activity against Anopheles. Using a luminescent Plasmodium falciparum reporter strain, barcoded screens identified 48 drug-like transmis- sion-blocking compounds from a 400-compound antimicrobial library. The approach signifi- cantly increases the throughput in phenotypic screening campaigns using adult insects and identifies novel candidate small molecules for disease control.

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