Blood-feeding midges as models for the role of microbiomes in the transmission of diseases

Microbiomes in natural biotic and abiotic ecosystems can be determining factors in emergence of diseases, and fundamental knowledge on interactions of natural microbiomes with pathogens is lacking. For our study we will use blood-feeding midges as model, because serious viral diseases are transmitted by these midges. 

We will use blood-feeding midges as model, because recently The Netherlands, as well as other countries in northern Europe, have faced serious outbreaks of viral diseases transmitted by these midges (bluetongue, Schmallenberg). In addition, these insects can easily be reared in the laboratory and we have the facilities to conduct studies on artificially infected specimens. The main research objective is to understand the role of the insect microbiome in determining the efficiency with which diseases can be transmitted. We have established an interdisciplinary consortium (consisting of Entomology, Virology, Plant Research International, Central Veterinary Institute and Quantitative Veterinary Epidemiology) that will develop a pipeline to investigate vector-borne disease risks from micro- to macrolevel, i.e. from microbiome to insect vector, to host-vector interactions and eventually disease risk models, in line with the Global One Health concept as formulated in the Strategic Plan of Wageningen UR. Via a series of experimental studies linked with sequencing of the microbiome, we aim to provide the necessary fundamental knowledge, and also aim to translate results into tangible insights relevant for controlling future outbreaks.