Investigation of Gray-Headed Flying Foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) (Megachiroptera: Pteropodidae) and Mosquitoes in the Ecology of Ross River Virus in Australia

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  • Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, and Department of Microbiology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Entomologic and virologic factors were investigated to determine whether gray-headed flying foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) from Indooroopilly Island, Brisbane, Australia could be vertebrate hosts of Ross River (RR) virus. Aedes funereus was the most abundant mosquito species with 6,300–38,700 females per light trap night in the flying fox camp containing gray-headed, black (P. alecto), and little red (P. scapulatus) flying foxes. Sixteen Ae. funereus blood meals from this collection were analyzed by hemoglobin electrophoresis and were found to be from P. alecto. From pledget feeding with RR virus, the infectious dose required to infect 50% of wild caught Ae. funereus was log10 4.2 50% tissue culture infectious doses per mosquito, with a transmission rate to mice of 17% at 9–10 days post infection. Experimental infection of 10 juvenile P. poliocephalus produced viremias of low titer in five animals, with a duration of 1–4 days and a mean of two days. Three percent of colonized Ae. vigilax that fed on the 10 animals during this period became infected. One of the five viremic flying foxes and two of the five aviremic animals produced a detectable immune response by either neutralization or hemagglutination-inhibition tests. Based on the low to moderate vector competence of Ae. funereus for RR virus, and evidence that P. poliocephalus is a poor vertebrate host of RR virus, it is unlikely that RR virus transmission would be maintained between these two species, but it could be maintained by other more competent vector/host pairs.