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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Jun 21;102(25):8871-4. Epub 2005 Jun 10.

Nonviremic transmission of West Nile virus.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555-0609, USA.


West Nile virus (WNV) is now the predominant circulating arthropod-borne virus in the United States with >15,000 human cases and >600 fatalities since 1999. Conventionally, mosquitoes become infected when feeding on viremic birds and subsequently transmit the virus to susceptible hosts. Here, we demonstrate nonviremic transmission of WNV between cofeeding mosquitoes. Donor, Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus mosquitoes infected with WNV were fed simultaneously with uninfected "recipient" mosquitoes on naïve mice. At all times, donor and recipient mosquitoes were housed in separate sealed containers, precluding the possibility of mixing. Recipients became infected in all five trials, with infection rates as high as 5.8% and no detectable viremia in the hosts. Remarkably, a 2.3% infection rate was observed when 87 uninfected mosquitoes fed adjacent to a single infected mosquito. This phenomenon could potentially enhance virus survival, transmission, and dispersion and obviate the requirement for viremia. All vertebrates, including immune and insusceptible animals, might therefore facilitate mosquito infection. Our findings question the status of dead-end hosts in the WNV transmission cycle and may partly explain the success with which WNV established and rapidly dispersed throughout North America.

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