Molecular species identification, host preference and detection of myxoma virus in the Anopheles maculipennis complex (Diptera: Culicidae) in southern England, UK

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Abstract

Background: Determining the host feeding patterns of mosquitoes by identifying the origin of their blood-meals is an important part of understanding the role of vector species in current and future disease transmission cycles. Collecting large numbers of blood-fed mosquitoes from the field is difficult, therefore it is important to maximise the information obtained from each specimen. This study aimed to use mosquito genome sequence to identify the species within Anopheles maculipennis sensu lato (An. maculipennis s.l.), identify the vertebrate hosts of field-caught blood-fed An. maculipennis s.l., and to test for the presence of myxoma virus (Poxviridae, genus Leporipoxvirus) in specimens found to have fed on the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Methods: Blood-fed An. maculipennis s.l. were collected from resting sites at Elmley Nature Reserve, Kent, between June and September 2013. Hosts that An. maculipennis s.l. had fed on were determined by a PCR-sequencing approach based on the partial amplification of the mitochondrial cytochrome C oxidase subunit I gene. Mosquitoes were then identified to species by sequencing a region of the internal transcribed spacer-2. DNA extracts from all mosquitoes identified as having fed on rabbits were subsequently screened using PCR for the presence of myxoma virus. Results: A total of 94 blood-fed Anopheles maculipennis s.l. were collected, of which 43 (46 %) provided positive blood-meal identification results. Thirty-six of these specimens were identified as Anopheles atroparvus, which had fed on rabbit (n∈=∈33, 92 %) and cattle (n∈=∈3, 8 %). Seven mosquitoes were identified as Anopheles messeae, which had fed on cattle (n∈=∈6, 86 %) and dog (n∈=∈1, 14 %). Of the 33 An. atroparvus that contained rabbit blood, nine (27 %) were positive for myxoma virus. Conclusions: Results demonstrate that a single DNA extract from a blood-fed mosquito can be successfully used for molecular identification of members of the An. maculipennis complex, blood-meal identification, and for the targeted detection of a myxoma virus. This study shows that An. atroparvus has a strong feeding preference for both healthy and myxoma-infected rabbits, providing evidence that this species may play a significant role in the transmission of myxomatosis among wild rabbit populations in the United Kingdom (UK).

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Brugman, V. A., Hernández-Triana, L. M., Prosser, S. W. J., Weland, C., Westcott, D. G., Fooks, A. R., & Johnson, N. (2015). Molecular species identification, host preference and detection of myxoma virus in the Anopheles maculipennis complex (Diptera: Culicidae) in southern England, UK. Parasites and Vectors, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-015-1034-8

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