Transmission dynamics of an insect-specific flavivirus in a naturally infected Culex pipiens laboratory colony and effects of co-infection on vector competence for West Nile virus

Virology
Bethany G BollingCarol D Blair

Abstract

We established a laboratory colony of Culex pipiens mosquitoes from eggs collected in Colorado and discovered that mosquitoes in the colony are naturally infected with Culex flavivirus (CxFV), an insect-specific flavivirus. In this study we examined transmission dynamics of CxFV and effects of persistent CxFV infection on vector competence for West Nile virus (WNV). We found that vertical transmission is the primary mechanism for persistence of CxFV in Cx. pipiens, with venereal transmission potentially playing a minor role. Vector competence experiments indicated possible early suppression of WNV replication by persistent CxFV infection in Cx. pipiens. This is the first description of insect-specific flavivirus transmission dynamics in a naturally infected mosquito colony and the observation of delayed dissemination of superinfecting WNV suggests that the presence of CxFV may impact the intensity of enzootic transmission of WNV and the risk of human exposure to this important pathogen.

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