Disentangling Vector-Borne Transmission Networks: A Universal DNA Barcoding Method to Identify Vertebrate Hosts from Arthropod Bloodmeals

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EDENext Number (or EDEN No): 



Miguel Alcaide, Ciro Rico, Santiago Ruiz, Ramon Soriguer, Joaquın Munoz, Jordi Figuerola

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Alcaide M, Rico C, Ruiz S, Soriguer R, Munoz J, et al. (2009) Disentangling Vector-Borne Transmission Networks: A Universal DNA Barcoding Method to Identify Vertebrate Hosts from Arthropod Bloodmeals. PLoS ONE 4(9): e7092. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007092

Data description: 

DNA barcoding initiatives


DNA barcoding initiatives, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)


Emerging infectious diseases represent a challenge for global economies and public health. About one fourth of the last pandemics have been originated by the spread of vector-borne pathogens. In this sense, the advent of modern molecular techniques has enhanced our capabilities to understand vector-host interactions and disease ecology. However, host identification protocols have poorly profited of international DNA barcoding initiatives and/or have focused exclusively on a limited array of vector species. Therefore, ascertaining the potential afforded by DNA barcoding tools in other vector-host systems of human and veterinary importance would represent a major advance in tracking pathogen life cycles and hosts. Here, we show the applicability of a novel and efficient molecular method for the identification of the vertebrate host’s DNA contained in the midgut of blood-feeding arthropods. To this end, we designed a eukaryote-universal forward primer and a vertebrate-specific reverse primer to selectively amplify 758 base pairs (bp) of the vertebrate mitochondrial Cytochrome c Oxidase Subunit I (COI) gene. Our method was validated using both extensive sequence surveys from the public domain and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) experiments carried out over specimens from different Classes of vertebrates (Mammalia, Aves, Reptilia and Amphibia) and invertebrate ectoparasites (Arachnida and Insecta). The analysis of mosquito, culicoid, phlebotomie, sucking bugs, and tick bloodmeals revealed up to 40 vertebrate hosts, including 23 avian, 16 mammalian and one reptilian species. Importantly, the inspection and analysis of direct sequencing electropherograms also assisted the resolving of mixed bloodmeals. We therefore provide a universal and high-throughput diagnostic tool for the study of the ecology of haematophagous invertebrates in relation to their vertebrate hosts. Such information is crucial to support the efficient management of initiatives aimed at reducing epidemiologic risks of arthropod vector-borne pathogens, a priority for public health.