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Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2011 Aug;11(8):1099-105. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2010.0144. Epub 2011 Jan 22.

Culex flavivirus and West Nile virus mosquito coinfection and positive ecological association in Chicago, United States.

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  • 1Department of Pathobiological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


Culex flavivirus (CxFV) is an insect-specific flavivirus globally distributed in mosquitoes of the genus Culex. CxFV was positively associated with West Nile virus (WNV) infection in a case-control study of 268 mosquito pools from an endemic focus of WNV transmission in Chicago, United States. Specifically, WNV-positive Culex mosquito pools were four times more likely also to be infected with CxFV than were spatiotemporally matched WNV-negative pools. In addition, mosquito pools from residential sites characterized by dense housing and impermeable surfaces were more likely to be infected with CxFV than were pools from nearby urban green spaces. Further, 6/15 (40%) WNV-positive individual mosquitoes were also CxFV positive, demonstrating that both viruses can coinfect mosquitoes in nature. Phylogenetic analysis of CxFV from Chicago demonstrated a pattern similar to WNV, consisting of low global viral diversity and lack of geographic clustering. These results illustrate a positive ecological association between CxFV and WNV, and that coinfection of individual mosquitoes can occur naturally in areas of high flaviviral transmission. These conclusions represent a challenge to the hypothesis of super-infection exclusion in the CxFV/WNV system, whereby an established infection with one virus may interfere with secondary viral infection with a similar virus. This study suggests that infection with insect-specific flaviviruses such as CxFV may not exclude secondary infection with genetically distinct flaviviruses such as WNV, and that both viruses can naturally coinfect mosquitoes that are epidemic bridge vectors of WNV to humans.

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