Virulence (speed of kill) of a fungal entomopathogen against a particular host insect depends on biological properties of the specific isolate-host combination, together with factors such as fungal dose. How these intrinsic and extrinsic factors affect the actual pattern and extent of fungal growth in vivo is poorly understood. In this study we exposed adult house flies (Musca domestica L.) to surfaces treated with high and low doses of Beauveria bassiana (isolates BbGHA and Bb5344), Metarhizium anisopliae (strain MaF52) and M. anisopliae var. acridum (isolate Ma189) and used quantitative real-time PCR with species-specific primers to examine the relationship between fungal growth kinetics and virulence. At the highest dose, all fungal isolates killed flies significantly faster than controls, with BbGHA, Bb5344 and MaF52 roughly equivalent in virulence (median survival time (±SE) = 5.0 ± 0.10, 5.0 ± 0.08 and 5.0 ± 0.12. days, respectively) and Ma189 killing more slowly (MST = 8.0 ± 0.20. days). At the lower dose, effective virulence was reduced and only flies exposed to isolates BbGHA and Bb5344 died significantly faster than controls (MST = 12 ± 1.36, 15 ± 0.64, 18 ± 0.86 and 21.0 ± 0.0. days for BbGHA, Bb5344, MaF52 and Ma189, respectively). Real-time PCR assays revealed that flies exposed to surfaces treated with the high dose of spores had greater spore pickup than flies exposed to the low dose for each isolate. After pickup, a general pattern emerged for all isolates in which there was a significant reduction of recovered fungal DNA 48. h after exposure followed by a brief recovery phase, a stable period of little net change in fungal sequence counts, and then a dramatic increase in sequence counts of up to three orders of magnitude around the time of host death. However, while the patterns of growth were similar, there were quantitative differences such that higher final sequence counts were recovered in insects infected with the most lethal isolates and with the higher dose. These results suggest that variation in virulence between isolates, species and doses is determined more by quantitative rather than qualitative differences in fungal growth kinetics.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics