Determination of the Effects of Microplastic Exposure on Mosquito Traits and Pathogen Progression in Two Vectors
Widespread pollution of aquatic and terrestrial environments by micro- and nanoplastics and their associated impacts to organisms at every trophic level has created a cause for concern by researchers. These small plastics are largely hydrophobic and provide ample surface area for sorption of pollutants and microorganisms. Effects on living organisms are driven by the chemical and physical properties of the plastic itself as well as the biological or chemical hitchhikers carried by them. In cells, these effects relate to oxidative stress, DNA damage, and membrane integrity. Micro- and nanoplastics have been found to interact with biological membranes, alter protein folding, and cause organ dysfunction. In animals, metabolic disorders, changes in immune response, neurotoxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, and changes to microbiome composition have been associated with micro- and nanoplastics. Modifications of fungal and bacterial species have been seen to alter development, host phenotypes, immune function, digestion, sexual reproduction, and influence vector competence. In mosquitoes, microplastics have been found to impact immature and adult weight, transfer ontogenically, damage gut membrane integrity, and alter composition of myco- and microbiomes. With the end goal of determining how microplastics affect virus replication in the mosquito host, these studies explored microplastics collected from oviposition sites, how larval ingestion of micro- and nanoplastics impact life history traits, their residence time in the mosquito host and gut membrane integrity, and finally how ingestion of microplastics by larvae impacts replication of dengue virus serotype 2 in Ae. albopictus and Ae. aegypti mosquitoes.