Two new papers!
Happy to start the year with the publication of two papers! Bravo Joanna for your hard work!
1) The first paper led by Joanna Reinhold with undergraduate student Ryan Shaw is published in the Journal of Thermal Biology: Beat the heat: Culex quinquefasciatus regulates its body temperature during blood feeding
Mosquitoes are regarded as one of the most dangerous animals on earth. Because they are responsible for the spread of a wide range of both human and animal pathogens, research of the underlying mechanisms of their feeding behavior and physiology is critical. Among disease vector mosquitoes, Culex quinquefasciatus, a known carrier of West Nile virus and Western Equine Encephalitis, remains relatively understudied. As blood-sucking insects, adaptations (either at the molecular or physiological level) while feeding on warm blood are crucial to their survival, as overheating can result in death due to heat stress. Our research aims to determine how Cx. quinquefasciatus copes with the heat associated with warm blood meal ingestion and possibly uncover the adaptations this species uses to avoid thermal stress. Through the use of thermographic imaging, we analyzed the body temperature of Cx. quinquefasciatus while blood feeding. Infrared thermography has allowed us to identify a cooling strategy, evaporative cooling via the production of fluid droplets, and an overall low body temperature in comparison to the blood temperature during feeding. Understanding Cx. quinquefasciatus’ adaptations and the strategies they employ to reduce their body temperature while blood feeding constitutes the first step towards discovering potential targets that could be used for their control.
Figure: Culex quinquefasciatus female performs evaporative cooling while blood-feeding.
2) The second paper led by Tyler Bates is a collaboration with Dr. James Weger-Lucarelli published in Virology: American Aedes japonicus japonicus, Culex pipiens pipiens, and Culex restuans mosquitoes have limited transmission capacity for a recent isolate of Usutu virus
Usutu virus (USUV; Flavivirus) has caused massive die-offs in birds across Europe since the 1950s. Although rare, severe neurologic disease in humans has been reported. USUV is genetically related to West Nile virus (WNV) and shares an ecological niche, suggesting it could spread from Europe to the Americas. USUV's risk of transmission within the United States is currently unknown. To this end, we exposed field-caught Aedes japonicus, Culex pipiens pipiens, and Culex restuans—competent vectors for WNV—to a recent European isolate of USUV. While infection rates for each species varied from 7%-21%, no dissemination or transmission was observed. These results differed from a 2018 report by Cook and colleagues, who found high dissemination rates and evidence of transmission potential using a different USUV strain, U.S. mosquito populations, temperature, and extrinsic incubation period. Future studies should evaluate the impact of these experimental conditions on USUV transmission by North American mosquitoes.