BackgroundVarious endosymbiotic bacteria, including Wolbachia of the Alphaproteobacteria, infect a wide range of insects and are capable of inducing reproductive abnormalities to their hosts such as cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), parthenogenesis, feminization and male-killing. These extended phenotypes can be potentially exploited in enhancing environmentally friendly methods, such as the sterile insect technique (SIT), for controlling natural populations of agricultural pests. The goal of the present study is to investigate the presence of Wolbachia, Spiroplasma, Arsenophonus and Cardinium among Bactrocera, Dacus and Zeugodacus flies of Southeast Asian populations, and to genotype any detected Wolbachia strains.ResultsA specific 16S rRNA PCR assay was used to investigate the presence of reproductive parasites in natural populations of nine different tephritid species originating from three Asian countries, Bangladesh, China and India. Wolbachia infections were identified in Bactrocera dorsalis, B. correcta, B. scutellaris and B. zonata, with 12.2–42.9% occurrence, Entomoplasmatales in B. dorsalis, B. correcta, B. scutellaris, B. zonata, Zeugodacus cucurbitae and Z. tau (0.8–14.3%) and Cardinium in B. dorsalis and Z. tau (0.9–5.8%), while none of the species tested, harbored infections with Arsenophonus. Infected populations showed a medium (between 10 and 90%) or low (< 10%) prevalence, ranging from 3 to 80% for Wolbachia, 2 to 33% for Entomoplasmatales and 5 to 45% for Cardinium. Wolbachia and Entomoplasmatales infections were found both in tropical and subtropical populations, the former mostly in India and the latter in various regions of India and Bangladesh. Cardinium infections were identified in both countries but only in subtropical populations. Phylogenetic analysis revealed the presence of Wolbachia with some strains belonging either to supergroup B or supergroup A. Sequence analysis revealed deletions of variable length and nucleotide variation in three Wolbachia genes. Spiroplasma strains were characterized as citri–chrysopicola–mirum and ixodetis strains while the remaining Entomoplasmatales to the Mycoides–Entomoplasmataceae clade. Cardinium strains were characterized as group A, similar to strains infecting Encarsia pergandiella.ConclusionsOur results indicated that in the Southeast natural populations examined, supergroup A Wolbachia strain infections were the most common, followed by Entomoplasmatales and Cardinium. In terms of diversity, most strains of each bacterial genus detected clustered in a common group. Interestingly, the deletions detected in three Wolbachia genes were either new or similar to those of previously identified pseudogenes that were integrated in the host genome indicating putative horizontal gene transfer events in B. dorsalis, B. correcta and B. zonata.