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J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 2005 Dec;21(4 Suppl):17-22.

Host-seeking strategies of mosquito disease vectors.

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University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, Vero Beach, Florida 32962, USA.


Disease transmission by arthropods normally requires at least 2 host contacts. During the first, a pathogen (nematode, protozoan, or virus) is acquired along with the blood from an infected vertebrate host. The pathogen penetrates the vector's midgut and infects a variety of tissues, where replication may occur during an extrinsic incubation period lasting 3-30, days depending on vector and parasite physiology and ambient temperature. Following salivary-gland infection, the pathogen is usually transmitted to additional susceptible vertebrate hosts during future probing or blood feeding. The host-seeking strategies used by arthropod vectors can, in part, affect the efficiency of disease transmission. Vector abundance, seasonal distribution, habitat and host preference, and susceptibility to infection are all important components of disease-transmission cycles. Examples of 3 mosquito vectors of human disease are presented here to highlight the diversity of host seeking and to show how specific behaviors may influence disease-transmission cycles. In the African tropics, Anopheles gambiae s.s. is an efficient vector of human malaria due to its remarkably focused preference for human blood. Aedes aegypti is the main vector of dengue viruses in the New and Old World tropics and subtropics. This mosquito has evolved a domestic lifestyle and shares human habitations throughout much of its range. It prospers in settings where humans are its main source of blood. In south Florida, Culex nigripalpus is the major vector of St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) and West Nile (WN) viruses. This mosquito is opportunistic and blood feeds on virtually any available vertebrate host. It serves as an arboviral vector, in part, due to its ability to produce large populations in a short period of time. These 3 host-seeking and blood-feeding strategies make the specialist, as well as the opportunist, equally dangerous disease vectors.

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