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NC3Rs: National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research
Project grant

Galleria mellonella as an infection model for viral pathogens

Professor Richard Titball sitting down observing a specimen

At a glance

Award date
October 2019 - January 2021
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Professor Richard Titball
University of Exeter


  • Replacement
Read the abstract
View the grant profile on GtR



Why did we fund this project?

This award aims to determine if wax moths (Galleria mellonella) are susceptible to insect-borne viruses and whether the larvae could replace mammalian species used for modelling viral pathogenesis.

Galleria mellonella larvae are used as an infection model for bacterial and fungal pathogens but there are currently no publications reporting the use of Galleria as a model for viral infections. Viruses can only infect specific species (or hosts) so researchers use a range of mammalian species such as mice, rabbits and non-human primates dependent on the natural host of the virus. However, some viruses that infect humans replicate in insect vectors and Galleria may also be susceptible to these infections. Galleria provide a number of scientific, technical and ethical advantages over the use of other invertebrates, cell lines or murine models. The Galleria immune system contains hemocytes which, similarly to macrophages in humans, can engulf pathogens. This is an important infection stage to model in humans as it can be an indicator of the outcome of infection and cannot currently be modelled using in vitro methods. Galleria can also be infected and incubated at 37oC allowing infections to be studied at the same temperature as in humans, which is important for cellular kinetics and temperature-sensitive protein production.

Professor Richard Titball and colleagues have preliminary data showing Galleria are susceptible to Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis (VEE), which causes disease in the larvae. This project will expand the pilot study by investigating the morbidity and mortality of related viral pathogens such as Western Equine Encephalomyelitis Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis Virus, Semliki Forest Virus and Sindbis Virus.

This project grant was awarded under the 2019 highlight notice.