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J Med Entomol. 1993 Mar;30(2):449-56.

Environmental temperature on the vector competence of Culex univittatus (Diptera: Culicidae) for West Nile virus.

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Department of Virology, University of the Witwatersrand, Sandringham, South Africa.


The effects of the extrinsic incubation temperature on the vector competence of Culex univittatus Theobald for West Nile (WN) virus were studied. A mean titer of 7.0 log10 CPD50/ml of mosquito suspension was reached in orally infected mosquitoes after 11, 15, and 16 d of incubation at 26 and 30 degrees C and at fluctuating temperatures in an outside cage (mean temperature, 23.5 degrees C), respectively. In contrast, 22 and 58 d were required to reach the same titers at 18 and 14 degrees C, respectively. Transmission rates of 100% were reached after 58 d (14 degrees C), 22 d (18 degrees C), and 15 and 16 d (30 degrees C and outside). Except at 30 degrees C, transmission rates fluctuated; e.g., at 18 degrees C from day 19, the transmission rate was 80-100%, whereas at 14 degrees C on day 36, the transmission rate was 60% and thereafter 20-100%. The maximum transmission rate occurred concurrently with maximum titers of virus secreted into capillary tubes during in vitro transmission attempts. Mosquito longevity increased as incubation temperature decreased and was maximum at 114 d at 14 degrees C. Mosquitoes that were transferred from 14 to 26 degrees C after 49 d subsequently oviposited, engorged on a pigeon, and transmitted virus, which indicated the possibility for overwintering of WN virus in adult Cx. univittatus. Vector competence at outside cycling temperatures was intermediate between that at 26 and 30 degrees C, indicating that incubation at 26 degrees C would give a fair reflection of the vector competence of Cx. univittatus during the summer near Johannesburg. Two human epidemics of WN virus are reevaluated in the light of these results; it is concluded that, in addition to abnormal rainfall, higher than normal temperatures were important factors for their occurrence.

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