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Using haematophagous fly blood meals to study the diversity of blood‐borne pathogens infecting wild mammals

Mwakasungula, Solomon; Rougeron, Virginie; Arnathau, Céline; Boundenga, Larson; Miguel, Eve; Boissière, Anne; Jiolle, Davy; Durand, Patrick; Msigwa, Alphonce; Mswata, Sarah; Olotu, Ally; Sterkers, Yvon; Roche, Benjamin; Killeen, Gerard; Cerqueira, Frédérique; Bitome‐Essono, Paul Yannick; Bretagnolle, François; Masanja, Honorati; Paupy, Christophe; Sumaye, Robert; Prugnolle, Franck

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Solomon Mwakasungula

Virginie Rougeron

Céline Arnathau

Larson Boundenga

Eve Miguel

Anne Boissière

Davy Jiolle

Patrick Durand

Alphonce Msigwa

Sarah Mswata

Ally Olotu

Yvon Sterkers

Benjamin Roche

Gerard Killeen

Frédérique Cerqueira

Paul Yannick Bitome‐Essono

François Bretagnolle

Honorati Masanja

Christophe Paupy

Robert Sumaye

Franck Prugnolle


Many emerging infectious diseases originate from wild animals, so there is a profound need for surveillance and monitoring of their pathogens. However, the practical difficulty of sample acquisition from wild animals tends to limit the feasibility and effectiveness of such surveys. Xenosurveillance, using blood-feeding invertebrates to obtain tissue samples from wild animals and then detect their pathogens, is a promising method to do so. Here, we describe the use of tsetse fly blood meals to determine (directly through molecular diagnostic and indirectly through serology), the diversity of circulating blood-borne pathogens (including bacteria, viruses and protozoa) in a natural mammalian community of Tanzania. Molecular analyses of captured tsetse flies (182 pools of flies totalizing 1728 flies) revealed that the blood meals obtained came from 18 different vertebrate species including 16 non-human mammals, representing approximately 25% of the large mammal species present in the study area. Molecular diagnostic demonstrated the presence of different protozoa parasites and bacteria of medical and/or veterinary interest. None of the six virus species searched for by molecular methods were detected but an ELISA test detected antibodies against African swine fever virus among warthogs, indicating that the virus had been circulating in the area. Sampling of blood-feeding insects represents an efficient and practical approach to tracking a diversity of pathogens from multiple mammalian species, directly through molecular diagnostic or indirectly through serology, which could readily expand and enhance our understanding of the ecology and evolution of infectious agents and their interactions with their hosts in wild animal communities.


Mwakasungula, S., Rougeron, V., Arnathau, C., Boundenga, L., Miguel, E., Boissière, A., …Prugnolle, F. (2022). Using haematophagous fly blood meals to study the diversity of blood‐borne pathogens infecting wild mammals. Molecular Ecology Resources, 22(8), 2915-2927.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 17, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 25, 2022
Publication Date 2022-11
Deposit Date Sep 2, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 15, 2023
Journal Molecular Ecology Resources
Print ISSN 1755-098X
Electronic ISSN 1755-0998
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 22
Issue 8
Pages 2915-2927


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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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