The Asian tiger mosquito does not pose a great risk for Zika virus epidemics. This is the result of a study published on December 31 in the open access journal PLOS Pathogens by Albin Fontaine of the Institut de Recherche Biomédicale des Armées and colleagues .
The Zika virus has caused large outbreaks in human populations that in some cases cause congenital deformities, fetal loss, or neurological problems in adults. While the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti is believed to be the main vector of the Zika virus, the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus has been experimentally shown to transmit the virus and was involved in several transmissions of the virus in France in 2019. Ae is native to Southeast Asia. Aegypti is an aggressive walker that has invaded the world and is now present on all inhabited continents, including temperate Europe, due to its ability to withstand harsh winter conditions. The second most important vector of human viral pathogens is Ae. Albopictus displaces Ae. Egyptian populations due to competitive advantage. However, it is not known whether Ae. Albopictus could trigger large-scale Zika virus epidemics.
To answer this question, the researchers debunked Ae. Albopictus against Zika virus and evaluated the infection rates in experiments, modeled the dynamics of Zika virus infection in individual people and used epidemiological simulations. The highest risk of transmission occurred in the pre-symptomatic stage of the disease. At this dose, the likelihood of mosquito infection was estimated to be 20% and it took 21 days to reach mean systemic infection rates. Despite these unfavorable properties for transmission, Ae. Albopictus was still able to trigger large outbreaks in a simulated environment with sufficiently high mosquito densities and bite rates. According to the authors, active surveillance and eradication programs should be carried out in the areas occupied by Ae. Albopictus, to help maintain low risk of a Zika virus outbreak.
The authors conclude: “The complementary combination of dose-dependent experimental infection, modeling of intra-human viraemia dynamics and epidemiological simulations in silico confirms the low epidemic potential of Aedes albopictus for the Zika virus.”
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