Science - March 2, 2018

Our mosquito can transmit the Rift Valley virus

Albert Sikkema

The most common species of mosquito in the Netherlands, Culex pipiens, can transmit the Rift Valley fever virus. This was revealed by a study at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research.

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In Northern Africa and in the Middle-East, the Rift Valley fever virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, leads to deaths among newly-born lambs and causes spontaneous abortions in ewe bearing young. The virus usually causes flu in humans but can also lead to death. The virus seems to be advancing into Europe, which is why the veterinary institute is studying the virus and its spread. The institute already developed vaccines against this animal disease.

The virologists at the institute now also want to know how fast the virus could spread in the Netherlands in the case of a theoretical outbreak. Prior research already showed that Dutch lambs are very susceptible to the virus. New experiments have revealed that the Dutch common mosquito can also contract the virus, multiply it and transmit it through saliva.

The researchers added the virus to blood and offered that artificially to mosquitoes. From this experiment, it turned out that the mosquitoes can contract the virus. Afterwards, lambs were contaminated with the virus in the heavily secured High Containment Unit of the institute, where the mosquitoes proved to get contaminated upon feeding on the contaminated lambs. The scientists also determined that the virus multiplied in the skin of the lambs after they had been stung by contaminated mosquitoes.

The Rift Valley virus belongs to a group of viruses that are not causing problems in Europe at the moment, but which could suddenly spread. The list also contains the Zika virus, the West Nile virus and the chikungunya virus.

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