Transovarial Transmission of St. Louis Encephalitis Virus by Culex Pipiens Complex Mosquitoes

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  • Vector-Borne Diseases Division, Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Post Office Box 2987, Fort Collins, Colorado 80522

Experiments were conducted to determine whether transovarial transmission (TOT) of St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) virus occurs in Culex pipiens complex mosquitoes, the principal vectors of SLE virus in the central-eastern United States. In 1978, field-collected mosquitoes from Memphis, Tennessee, and McLeansboro, Illinois, were used; during 1979, colonized mosquitoes from Chicago, Illinois, and Memphis, Tennessee, were used. Mosquitoes were infected by feeding on viremic chicks inoculated with an SLE virus strain isolated from Cx. pipiens complex mosquitoes collected from Memphis, Tennessee, in 1976. During the 1979 experiments, progeny larval and adult mosquitoes were held at two temperatures, 18 and 25°C. Progeny were tested for virus by plaque assay in duck embryo cell cultures and by inoculation of Aedes albopictus C6/36 cells and examination by immunofluorescence. In 1978, most of the progeny tested were from the first ovarian cycle, and a single occurrence of TOT was documented. In 1979, a single TOT occurred from 46,856 first ovarian cycle progeny, whereas 7 of 9,234 progeny of the second ovarian cycle were infected. The rate of TOT was higher for progeny of Memphis than Chicago mosquitoes, and for mosquitoes held at 18°C than at 25°C; however, these differences were not statistically significant. Four positive pools were females, and three were fed on chicks for transmission attempts. The positive Chicago mosquito pool failed to transmit, but both Memphis pools successfully transmitted virus. The overall rates of TOT of SLE virus in progeny of the first and second ovarian cycle were, respectively, 1/45,151 and 1/1,460. The significance of these results as they relate to the natural history of SLE virus is discussed.