Abstract Ornithophilic Culex species are considered the primary amplification vectors of West Nile virus (WNV) in bird hosts as well as vectors responsible for epidemic transmission. Culex coronator was first collected from Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Washington Counties in Florida in 2005 and has since spread throughout the state. The vector competence of Cx. coronator for WNV, known to be infected in nature, has not been assessed. Without this knowledge, we are unable to assess this species' potential as an enzootic and epidemic vector of WNV in Florida. In the current study, we investigate the reproductive biology and susceptibility to WNV infection, dissemination, and transmission by Cx. coronator. We show that Cx. coronator is capable of delaying oviposition for several weeks after blood feeding and that the number of eggs laid is greater for avian than mammalian hosts. Cx. coronator were highly susceptible to infection (∼80-100%) and dissemination (∼65-85% by 18 days since exposure) with lower rates of transmission (0-17% at 25°C and 28-67% at 28°C), suggesting that it is a competent vector of WNV under some conditions. The proportion of mosquitoes with disseminated infections related to the time since exposure and was higher at 28°C than at 25°C. The rapid and statewide distribution of Cx. coronator throughout Florida poses as a potential public health risk. This baseline knowledge is essential information for mosquito control and public health agencies to assess current and future disease risk to Southeastern United States.
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