Diverse host feeding on nesting birds may limit early-season west nile virus amplification

Andrea M. Egizi, Ary Farajollahi, Dina M. Fonseca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Arboviral activity tracks vector availability, which in temperate regions means that transmission ceases during the winter and must be restarted each spring. In the northeastern United States, Culex restuans Theobald resumes its activity earlier than Culex pipiens L. and is thought to be important in restarting West Nile virus (WNV) transmission. Its role in WNV amplification, however, is unclear, because viral levels commonly remain low until the rise of Cx. pipiens later in the season. Because a vector's feeding habits can reveal key information about disease transmission, we identified early-season (April-June) blood meals from Cx. restuans collected throughout New Jersey, and compared them to published datasets from later in the season and also from other parts of the country. We found significantly higher avian diversity, including poor WNV hosts, and fewer blood meals derived from American Robins (17% versus over 40% found in later season). Critically, we identified blood meals from significantly more female than male birds in species where females are the incubating sex, suggesting that Cx. restuans is able to feed on such a wide variety of hosts in early spring because incubating birds are easy targets. Because WNV amplification depends on virus consistently reaching competent hosts, our results indicate that Cx. restuans is unlikely to be an amplifying vector of WNV in the early season. As the season progresses, however, changes in the availability of nesting birds may make it just as capable as Cx. pipiens, although at somewhat lower abundance as the summer progresses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-453
Number of pages7
JournalVector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


  • Arbovirus
  • Blood meal analysis
  • Dilution effect
  • Vector ecology
  • West Nile virus


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