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Vector competence of Australian Culex gelidus Theobald (Diptera: Culicidae) for endemic and exotic arboviruses

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The recent recognition of established populations of the mosquito, Culex gelidus Theobald, in Australia has raised concerns about local transmission of arboviruses. The vector competence of a mainland population of Cx. gelidus was investigated for two local alphaviruses, Ross River (RRV) and Barmah Forest (BFV) viruses, and three flaviviruses, Japanese encephalitis (JEV), Kunjin (KUNV) and Murray Valley encephalitis (MVEV) viruses. Colonised mosquitoes were exposed to virus via blood-soaked pledgets and transmission was tested using a capillary-tube method. The important Australian vectors, Aedes vigilax (Skuse) and Culex annulirostris Skuse, were used as internal controls for the alphaviruses and flaviviruses, respectively. Overall, Cx. gelidus was a more efficient vector of flaviviruses than alphaviruses. Culex gelidus was refractory to infection with BFV, and nearly 25% transmitted RRV, which was comparable to Ae. vigilax. Culex gelidus was susceptible to all three flaviviruses, with transmission rates of 96%, 95% and 41% for JEV, KUNV and MVEV, respectively. JEV transmission rates in Cx. annulirostris were unexpectedly low and this was possibly due to differences in susceptibility to JEV genotypes I and II. Considering the high susceptibility to the flaviviruses demonstrated here, and the natural infections with RRV and JEV that have been detected from northern Australian populations, the establishment of the exotic mosquito, Cx. gelidus, in Australia is potentially a significant public health concern.
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Keywords: Australia; Culex gelidus; Japanese encephalitis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences, the University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia. 2: Medical Entomology, Centre for Disease Control, Department of Health and Community Services, Darwin, NT 0810, Australia. 3: Australian Army Malaria Institute, Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera, Qld 4051, Australia. 4: Virology, Queensland Health Scientific Services, Coopers Plains, Qld 4108, Australia.

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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