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Mechanical transmission is an understudied mode of arbovirus transmission that occurs when a biting insect transmits virus among hosts by the direct transfer of virus particles contaminating its mouthparts. Multiple arboviruses have been shown to be capable of utilizing this transmission route, but most studies were conducted 40 to 70 years ago using dated methodologies. To gain a better understanding of this phenomenon, we used molecular techniques to evaluate the efficiency of mechanical transmission by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes for two evolutionarily divergent arboviruses, chikungunya virus (CHIKV) and dengue virus (DENV). Viral RNA and/or infectious DENV could be detected on 13.8% of mosquito proboscises sampled immediately after an infectious bloodmeal, but positivity rates declined within hours. CHIKV RNA and/or infectious virus was detected on 38.8% of proboscises immediately after feeding but positivity rates dropped to 2.5% within 4 hours. RNA copy numbers were low for both viruses, and we were unable to demonstrate mechanical transmission of CHIKV using an established animal model, suggesting that this mode of transmission is unlikely under natural conditions.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Financial support: This research was supported by grant no. 1R01AI148477-01A1 from the National Institutes of Health.
Authors’ addresses: Angela B. Bransfield and Michael J. Misencik, Center for Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, Department of Environmental Sciences, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, Connecticut, E-mails: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Doug E. Brackney and Philip M. Armstrong, Center for Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, Department of Environmental Sciences, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, Connecticut, and Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, E-mails: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.