Many interesting questions surround the interaction of covert viral infections and the Mediterranean fruit fly. Since June 2020, and as part of the Insect Doctors’ program, I am trying to solve some of them.
I started in the University of Valencia, where I identified several new viruses covertly infecting the Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly). To do so, I spent long hours in front of my computer writing bioinformatic pipelines and analysing data tables. Then, I moved to the laboratory to test the abundance of these viruses in different medfly strains by RT-qPCR, and I went back to my computer to analyse small RNA sequencing data in search of the activation of siRNA response. At the end, I obtained interesting results that have been recently summarized in a scientific publication (
https://doi.org/10.3390/v14030623). Results that brought us interesting new questions.
For instance, do these viruses cause any effect to medfly development? To unravel this question, we set up a collaboration with our colleagues at the Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Agrarias and the company Tragsa (Valencia). We selected Ceratitis capitata nora virus as a model, and we observed negative effects associated to its infection. In addition, we investigated whether this virus could affect the parasitism behaviour of
Aganaspis daci. Our results showed that attraction and parasitism success were improved in CcaNV-infected flies. If you want to know a bit more about it, you can read our new publication ( https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.11.25.517915 ).
After that, we investigated where the viruses are distributed within the flies. To answer this question, I moved to Wageningen University. Here I analysed by RT-qPCR the viral abundance at different developmental stages of the flies, and at different tissues of the adults. During this process I learnt how to dissect adult flies, and how to perform in situ hybridization with the help of my Insect Doctors college Hannah.
I feel I have changed a lot since the start of my PhD and so have done my viruses. We have continuously observed how viral abundance changes between strains but also within strains. We are not surprised anymore when we cannot detect a virus that was present in a population before. Does it mean that viruses can appear or disappear? To study this hypothesis, we designed an experiment with Lim, a colleague of Insect Doctors. In this project we will check, by qPCR and Nanopore sequencing, the presence and abundance of viruses in a wild medfly population before and after domestication, that is, after rearing this field-captured strain in the lab for more than 10 generations.
In my last report for this website, I had just moved to Wageningen and now I am about to leave with some new and exciting results that gave me some answers and, of course, some new questions to solve. That´s science!
Don´t hesitate to contact me (twitter: @luis_her_pel) if you want to know more about my experiments, or about me! Thanks for reading, Luis.