Vector Competence of American Mosquitoes for Three Strains of Zika Virus

James Weger-Lucarelli, Claudia Rückert, Nunya Chotiwan, Chilinh Nguyen, Selene M. Garcia Luna, Joseph R. Fauver, Brian D. Foy, Rushika Perera, William C. Black, Rebekah C. Kading, Gregory D. Ebel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


In 2015, Zika virus (ZIKV; Flaviviridae; Flavivirus) emerged in the Americas, causing millions of infections in dozens of countries. The rapid spread of the virus and the association with disease outcomes such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and microcephaly make understanding transmission dynamics essential. Currently, there are no reports of vector competence (VC) of American mosquitoes for ZIKV isolates from the Americas. Further, it is not clear whether ZIKV strains from other genetic lineages can be transmitted by American Aedes aegypti populations, and whether the scope of the current epidemic is in part facilitated by viral factors such as enhanced replicative fitness or increased vector competence. Therefore, we characterized replication of three ZIKV strains, one from each of the three phylogenetic clades in several cell lines and assessed their abilities to be transmitted by Ae. aegypti mosquitoes. Additionally, laboratory colonies of different Culex spp. were infected with an American outbreak strain of ZIKV to assess VC. Replication rates were variable and depended on virus strain, cell line and MOI. African strains used in this study outcompeted the American strain in vitro in both mammalian and mosquito cell culture. West and East African strains of ZIKV tested here were more efficiently transmitted by Ae. aegypti from Mexico than was the currently circulating American strain of the Asian lineage. Long-established laboratory colonies of Culex mosquitoes were not efficient ZIKV vectors. These data demonstrate the capacity for additional ZIKV strains to infect and replicate in American Aedes mosquitoes and suggest that neither enhanced virus replicative fitness nor virus adaptation to local vector mosquitoes seems likely to explain the extent and intensity of ZIKV transmission in the Americas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0005101
JournalPLoS neglected tropical diseases
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 26 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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