Culex mosquitoes not Zika virus carriers, say Kansas University researchers

The researchers say it is important to strike off Culex species of mosquitoes from the suspect list in order to concentrate anti-Zika efforts against the right species

Before this study, the Culex mosquito species’ role in spreading the Zika virus was unclear. Photo: AP
Before this study, the Culex mosquito species’ role in spreading the Zika virus was unclear. Photo: AP

New York: The Culex species of mosquitoes does not appear to transmit the virus that spreads Zika, according to a new study that may help control the virus and prevent its spread.

Researchers from Kansas State University studied Culex mosquitoes from across the US, including Vero Beach in Florida, which is near Miami-Dade County where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus.

The findings are important for controlling the virus and preventing its spread, said lead author Dana Vanlandingham, assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas.

“It’s very important to know that Culex mosquitoes are not able to transmit Zika. It enables people to target their control strategies so that they are not wasting time and effort on a mosquito that is not transmitting Zika virus,” Vanlandingham said.

Before this study, the Culex mosquito’s role in spreading Zika was unclear. By studying Culex mosquitoes over a period of time, the researchers found that the virus did not multiply and instead disappeared in the species.

“We can check this particular group of mosquitoes off the list here in the US and focus efforts of control on the mosquitoes that we know can infect, like Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus,” said Stephen Higgs from Kansas State University.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US has identified Aedes aegypti, or yellow fever mosquito, and Aedes albopictus, or Asian tiger mosquito, as two species that transmit the Zika virus.

The Culex mosquito has a brown body while the Aedes aegypti is black and Aedes albopictus black and white.

Culex mosquitoes are known to transmit the West Nile virus and Japanese encephalitis. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus can live in and around houses in plant trays, spare containers or gutters. Zika can show symptoms including mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain or headache.

“We need to know which mosquitoes to target and which mosquitoes not to target because mosquitoes live in different environments. Some mosquitoes are found outside and some are more in people’s homes. You need to know this in order to target your efforts,” said Vanlandingham.

The research appears in the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases.

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