Barcoding blood meals: New vertebrate-specific primer sets for assigning taxonomic identities to host DNA from mosquito blood meals
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
The transmission dynamics of mosquito-vectored pathogens are, in part, mediated by mosquito host-feeding patterns. These patterns are elucidated using blood meal analysis, a collection of serological and molecular techniques that determine the taxonomic identities of the host animals from which blood meals are derived. Modern blood meal analyses rely on polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA sequencing, and bioinformatic comparisons of blood meal DNA sequences to reference databases. Ideally,
... bases. Ideally, primers used in blood meal analysis PCRs amplify templates from a taxonomically diverse range of vertebrates, produce a short amplicon, and avoid co-amplification of non-target templates. Few primer sets that fit these requirements are available for the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene, the species identification marker with the highest taxonomic coverage in reference databases. Here, we present new primer sets designed to amplify fragments of the DNA barcoding region of the vertebrate COI gene, while avoiding co-amplification of mosquito templates, without multiplexed or nested PCR. Primers were validated using host vertebrate DNA templates from mosquito blood meals of known origin, representing all terrestrial vertebrate classes, and field-collected mosquito blood meals of unknown origin. We found that the primers were generally effective in amplifying vertebrate host, but not mosquito DNA templates. Applied to the sample of unknown mosquito blood meals, > 98% (60/61) of blood meals samples were reliably identified, demonstrating the feasibility of identifying mosquito hosts with the new primers. These primers are beneficial in that they can be used to amplify COI templates from a diverse range of vertebrate hosts using standard PCR, thereby streamlining the process of identifying the hosts of mosquitoes, and could be applied to next generation DNA sequencing and metabarcoding approaches.