Journal Article

Ability of Transstadially Infected Ixodes pacificus (Acari: Ixodidae) to Transmit West Nile Virus to Song Sparrows or Western Fence Lizards

in Journal of Medical Entomology

Published on behalf of Entomological Society of America

Volume 44, issue 2, pages 320-327
Published in print March 2007 | ISSN: 0022-2585
Published online October 2014 | e-ISSN: 1938-2928 | DOI:

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The hypothesis that Ixodes pacificus Cooley & Kohls (Acari: Ixodidae) may serve as a reservoir and vector of West Nile virus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus, WNV) in California was tested by determining the ability of this tick species to become infected with the NY99 strain of WNV while feeding on viremic song sparrows, to maintain the infection transstadially, and then to transmit WNV to recipient naïve song sparrows and western fence lizards during the nymphal stage. The percentage of ticks testing positive by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) decreased from 77% of 35 larvae at day 6 after ticks were transferred to donor song sparrows (day of detachment) to 23% of 35 nymphs at 59 d postinfestation (≈19 d after molting to the nymphal stage). However, the percentage of ticks positive by RT-PCR from which infectious virus was recovered by Vero cell assay decreased from 59% on day 6 to 12% on day 59, even though there was no statistically significant decrease in the quantity of RNA within positive ticks. Attempts to improve the sensitivity of plaque assays by blind passage through C6/36 cell cultures were unsuccessful. These data indicated that ticks maintained viral RNA but not necessarily infectious virus over time. Nymphs from larvae that fed on song sparrows with peak viremias ranging from 7.2 to 8.5 log10 plaque-forming units (PFU) per ml were used in transmission attempts. From one to seven RNA-positive nymphal ticks engorged and detached from each of four recipient song sparrows or western fence lizards. Blood samples from sparrows and lizards remained negative, indicating that transmission did not occur. An additional four lizards inoculated with 1,500 PFU of WNV developed moderate viremias, ranging from 4.2 to 5.6 log10 PFU/ml. Our data and data from previous studies collectively indicated that ixodid ticks were not able to experimentally transmit WNV and therefore most likely would not be important vectors in WNV transmission cycles.

Keywords: Ixodes pacificus; West Nile virus; song sparrow; west fence lizard; transmission

Journal Article.  4809 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Disease Ecology and Epidemiology ; Entomology

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