December 31 (UPI) – According to new epidemiological simulations, the Asian tiger mosquito represents only a low risk for the Zika virus.
The yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is the main vector for Zika virus, the infectious disease that can spread from the mother to the fetus and cause congenital birth defects.
However, laboratory experiments have previously shown that the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus can carry and transmit the disease.
In 2019, scientists in France blamed several cases of Zika infection and transmission on the Asian tiger mosquito, an aggressive biter native to Southeast Asia but colonizing much of temperate Europe.
Thanks to its ability to withstand severe winters, the Asian tiger mosquito is now common all over the world.
The species is the second most common vector of viral pathogens in humans, but its ability to cause larger outbreaks of the Zika virus has not been studied.
For the study, published Thursday in the journal PLOS Pathogens, researchers exposed Asian tiger mosquitoes to the Zika virus and used various laboratory experiments to evaluate the insect’s ability to carry and transmit the virus.
Scientists also modeled the dynamics of Zika virus infection in humans and developed new epidemiological simulations to measure the species’ ability to trigger large-scale Zika outbreaks.
The combination of experiments and models showed that the greatest risk of Zika transmission occurred in the symptomatic stage of the disease.
During the symptomatic stage, the scientists estimated the probability that a mosquito will ingest the disease at 20 percent.
“Despite these unfavorable properties for transmission, Ae. Albopictus was still able to trigger and trigger large outbreaks in a simulated environment with sufficiently high mosquito bite rates,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “Our results show a small, but existing, epidemic potential of Ae. Albopictus for Zika.”
Even with a low risk of causing Zika outbreaks in Europe, researchers suggest using active surveillance and eradication programs to protect public health in places with significant Asian tiger mosquito populations.