• Open Access

Mixed infections and the competitive fitness of faster-acting genetically modified viruses


Mark P. Zwart, Laboratory of Virology, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31-317-482920; fax: +31-317-485006; e-mail: mark.zwart@wur.nl


Faster-acting recombinant baculoviruses have shown potential for improved suppression of insect pests, but their ecological impact on target and nontarget hosts and naturally occurring pathogens needs to be assessed. Previous studies have focused on the fitness of recombinants at the between-hosts level. However, the population structure of the transmission stages will also be decided by within-host selection. Here we have experimentally quantified the within-host competitive fitness of a fast-acting recombinant Autographa californica multicapsid nucleopolyhedrovirus missing the endogenous egt gene (vEGTDEL), by means of direct competition in single- and serial-passage experiments with its parental virus. Quantitative real-time PCR was employed to determine the ratio of these two viruses in passaged mixtures. We found that vEGTDEL had reduced within-host fitness: per passage the ratio of wild type to vEGTDEL was on average enhanced by a factor of 1.53 (single passage) and 1.68 (serial passage). There is also frequency-dependence: the higher the frequency of vEGTDEL, the stronger the selection against it is. Additionally, the virus ratio is a predictor of time to host death and virus yield. Our results show that egt is important to within-host fitness and allow for a more complete assessment of the ecological impact of recombinant baculovirus release.