Publications by authors named "Thomas Balenghien"

51 Publications

A library preparation optimized for metagenomics of RNA viruses.

Mol Ecol Resour 2021 Mar 13. Epub 2021 Mar 13.

ASTRE, Cirad, INRAE, University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France.

Our understanding of the viral communities associated to animals has not yet reached the level attained on the bacteriome. This situation is due to, among others, technical challenges in adapting metagenomics using high-throughput sequencing to the study of RNA viromes in animals. Although important developments have been achieved in most steps of viral metagenomics, there is yet a key step that has received little attention: the library preparation. This situation differs from bacteriome studies in which developments in library preparation have largely contributed to the democratisation of metagenomics. Here, we present a library preparation optimized for metagenomics of RNA viruses from insect vectors of viral diseases. The library design allows a simple PCR-based preparation, such as those routinely used in bacterial metabarcoding, that is adapted to shotgun sequencing as required in viral metagenomics. We first optimized our library preparation using mock viral communities and then validated a full metagenomic approach incorporating our preparation in two pilot studies with field-caught insect vectors; one including a comparison with a published metagenomic protocol. Our approach provided a fold increase in virus-like sequences compared to other studies, and nearly-full genomes from new virus species. Moreover, our results suggested conserved trends in virome composition within a population of a mosquito species. Finally, the sensitivity of our approach was compared to a commercial diagnostic PCR for the detection of an arbovirus in field-caught insect vectors. Our approach could facilitate studies on viral communities from animals and the democratization of metagenomics in community ecology of viruses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1755-0998.13378DOI Listing
March 2021

High dispersal capacity of Culicoides obsoletus (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), vector of bluetongue and Schmallenberg viruses, revealed by landscape genetic analyses.

Parasit Vectors 2021 Feb 3;14(1):93. Epub 2021 Feb 3.

ASTRE, Univ Montpellier, Cirad, INRAE, Montpellier, France.

Background: In the last two decades, recurrent epizootics of bluetongue virus and Schmallenberg virus have been reported in the western Palearctic region. These viruses affect domestic cattle, sheep, goats and wild ruminants and are transmitted by native hematophagous midges of the genus Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae). Culicoides dispersal is known to be stratified, i.e. due to a combination of dispersal processes occurring actively at short distances and passively or semi-actively at long distances, allowing individuals to jump hundreds of kilometers.

Methods: Here, we aim to identify the environmental factors that promote or limit gene flow of Culicoides obsoletus, an abundant and widespread vector species in Europe, using an innovative framework integrating spatial, population genetics and statistical approaches. A total of 348 individuals were sampled in 46 sites in France and were genotyped using 13 newly designed microsatellite markers.

Results: We found low genetic differentiation and a weak population structure for C. obsoletus across the country. Using three complementary inter-individual genetic distances, we did not detect any significant isolation by distance, but did detect significant anisotropic isolation by distance on a north-south axis. We employed a multiple regression on distance matrices approach to investigate the correlation between genetic and environmental distances. Among all the environmental factors that were tested, only cattle density seems to have an impact on C. obsoletus gene flow.

Conclusions: The high dispersal capacity of C. obsoletus over land found in the present study calls for a re-evaluation of the impact of Culicoides on virus dispersal, and highlights the urgent need to better integrate molecular, spatial and statistical information to guide vector-borne disease control.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-020-04522-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7860033PMC
February 2021

Update of the Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) species checklist from Algeria with 10 new records.

Parasit Vectors 2020 Sep 10;13(1):463. Epub 2020 Sep 10.

ASTRE, University of Montpellier, CIRAD, INRAE, Montpellier, France.

Background: The Culicoides fauna of Algeria has been historically investigated, leading to the description of many new species by Kieffer in the 1920s, Clastrier in the 1950s or Callot in the 1960s and to a comprehensive inventory by Szadziewski in the 1980s. The emergence of bluetongue in the late 1990s enhanced Culicoides collections made in the country over the last two decades, but information remained mostly unpublished. The aim of this study is therefore to provide a comprehensive and updated checklist of Culicoides biting midge species in Algeria.

Methods: The literature (published and grey, in French and in English) from 1920 to date on Culicoides collections in Algeria was collected and analyzed in the light of the current taxonomic and systematic knowledge and methods. Fresh Culicoides material was also analyzed using light/suction trap collections carried out from November 2015 to September 2018 in nine localities of the 'wilayah' of Tiaret (northwestern Algeria). Slide mounted specimens were identified morphologically using the interactive identification key IIKC and original descriptions. Specimens were then compared with non-type material originating from different countries and partly with type material.

Results: A total of 13,709 Culicoides, belonging to at least 36 species within 10 subgenera, were examined leading to 10 new records in Algeria, including C. chiopterus, C. dewulfi, C. navaiae, C. grisescens, C. paradoxalis, C. shaklawensis, C. simulator, C. univittatus, C. achrayi and C. picturatus. These new records and all previous records provided by the literature review were discussed.

Conclusions: We propose a Culicoides checklist for the Algerian fauna of 59 valid species, including species mainly with a large Palaearctic distribution and a specific Mediterranean distribution, and only a few species from the Afrotropical region. Among them, several species, mainly of the subgenera Avaritia and Culicoides, are confirmed or probable vectors of arboviruses important in animal health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-020-04335-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7488159PMC
September 2020

Species composition and relative abundance of the genus Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) in Romania.

Parasit Vectors 2020 Aug 3;13(1):393. Epub 2020 Aug 3.

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Bucharest, Romania.

Background: Culicoides biting midges are vectors involved in the biological transmission cycle of important animal diseases such as bluetongue and African horse sickness. In Romania, the first outbreaks of bluetongue were reported in 2014, leading to increased activities within the existing entomological surveillance network. The main goals of the surveillance activities were the establishment of the vector free period in relation to animal trade and the identification of Culicoides species involved in the transmission of the pathogen. This study was conducted on the composition and relative abundance of the species belonging to the genus Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) in certain regions of Romania and provided the opportunity to update the existing checklist of Culicoides species of this country.

Methods: The study was conducted in 33 of the 42 administrative units (counties), including a total of 659 catches, in 102 locations. The collections were carried out with UV blacklight suction traps (OVI type). The collected insects were preserved in 70% ethanol. Morphological insect identification was carried out using a stereomicroscope, according to established identification keys. In ten localities the relative abundance of the cryptic species of the Obsoletus complex was determined by multiplex PCR assay based on the ITS2 segment. The identification of the Culicoides chiopterus (Meigen) species by morphological examination was confirmed by PCR assay based on the ITS1 segment.

Results: Eleven species were identified using morphological and PCR tools. The rest of the individuals were separated into five taxa. The species of the Obsoletus complex (grouping Culicoides obsoletus (Meigen) and Culicoides scoticus Downes & Kettle) were the most abundant, accounting for 59% of the total number of captured Culicoides spp. Three of the identified species are mentioned, according to our knowledge, for the first time in Romania: Culicoides newsteadi Austen, Culicoides flavipulicaris Dzhafarov and Culicoides bysta Sarvašová, Kočisová, Candolfi & Mathieu.

Conclusions: Our study demonstrates that the Culicoides species most commonly cited as being involved in the transmission of arboviruses in Europe (i.e. bluetongue and Schmallenberg viruses) make up a high proportion of adult Culicoides trapped in Romania.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-020-04247-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7397577PMC
August 2020

The tree that hides the forest: cryptic diversity and phylogenetic relationships in the Palaearctic vector Obsoletus/Scoticus Complex (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) at the European level.

Parasit Vectors 2020 May 20;13(1):265. Epub 2020 May 20.

ASTRE, Univ Montpellier, Cirad, INRAE, Montpellier, France.

Background: Culicoides obsoletus is an abundant and widely distributed Holarctic biting midge species, involved in the transmission of bluetongue virus (BTV) and Schmallenberg virus (SBV) to wild and domestic ruminants. Females of this vector species are often reported jointly with two morphologically very close species, C. scoticus and C. montanus, forming the Obsoletus/Scoticus Complex. Recently, cryptic diversity within C. obsoletus was reported in geographically distant sites. Clear delineation of species and characterization of genetic variability is mandatory to revise their taxonomic status and assess the vector role of each taxonomic entity. Our objectives were to characterize and map the cryptic diversity within the Obsoletus/Scoticus Complex.

Methods: Portion of the cox1 mitochondrial gene of 3763 individuals belonging to the Obsoletus/Scoticus Complex was sequenced. Populations from 20 countries along a Palaearctic Mediterranean transect covering Scandinavia to Canary islands (North to South) and Canary islands to Turkey (West to East) were included. Genetic diversity based on cox1 barcoding was supported by 16S rDNA mitochondrial gene sequences and a gene coding for ribosomal 28S rDNA. Species delimitation using a multi-marker methodology was used to revise the current taxonomic scheme of the Obsoletus/Scoticus Complex.

Results: Our analysis showed the existence of three phylogenetic clades (C. obsoletus clade O2, C. obsoletus clade dark and one not yet named and identified) within C. obsoletus. These analyses also revealed two intra-specific clades within C. scoticus and raised questions about the taxonomic status of C. montanus.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, our study provides the first genetic characterization of the Obsoletus/Scoticus Complex on a large geographical scale and allows a revision of the current taxonomic classification for an important group of vector species of livestock viruses in the Palaearctic region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-020-04114-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7238629PMC
May 2020

A phylogenetic analysis of the biting midges belonging to Culicoides Latreille (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) subgenus Avaritia using molecular data.

Parasit Vectors 2020 May 12;13(1):243. Epub 2020 May 12.

ASTRE, Univ Montpellier, Cirad, INRA, Montpellier, France.

Background: Within the genus Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), the subgenus Avaritia is of particular interest as it contains a significant number of economically important vector species. Disagreements about the systematic classification of species within this subgenus have resulted in a taxonomic imbroglio.

Methods: A molecular phylogeny of the subgenus Avaritia was conducted to test the existing systematic classification, which is based on phenetic assessment of morphological characters. Three nuclear ribosomal markers, internal transcribed spacer 1 and 2 (ITS1, ITS2), 5.8S, and three mitochondrial markers, cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 and 2, and cytochrome b (cox1, cox2 and cytb), were obtained for 37 species of the subgenus Avaritia from all six biogeographical regions. Phylogenetic reconstructions using these genes independently and in combination were implemented using Bayesian inference analysis and maximum likelihood methods.

Results: Phylogenetic reconstructions gave strong support to several monophyletic groups within the subgenus Avaritia. Both C. actoni and C. pusillus formed a single clade with C. grahamii so their respective groups, the Actoni and Pusillus groups, have been merged with the Grahamii group. Some support was provided for the Boophagus and Jacobsoni groups. A group of species currently placed into the Orientalis group clustered in a clade with poor support. The Obsoletus group was defined as a sister clade to all other Avaritia groups. The clade including the Imicola group was well supported based on phylogenetic criteria.

Conclusions: This phylogenetic study combining five distinct molecular markers has provided meaningful insights into the systematic relationships of Culicoides (Avaritia) and highlighted future directions to continue the study of this subgenus. While the cox2 marker appeared to be useful to investigate closely related species, the 5.8S marker was highly conserved and uninformative. Further investigations including species absent from this work are needed to confirm the proposed systematic scheme. However, this systematic scheme can now serve as a foundation to investigate cryptic species affiliation within the subgenus. We advocate that future studies employ a combination of morphological and molecular analyses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-020-04111-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7216621PMC
May 2020

Modelling the monthly abundance of Culicoides biting midges in nine European countries using Random Forests machine learning.

Parasit Vectors 2020 Apr 15;13(1):194. Epub 2020 Apr 15.

Division for Diagnostics and Scientific Advice, National Veterinary Institute, Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Lyngby, Denmark.

Background: Culicoides biting midges transmit viruses resulting in disease in ruminants and equids such as bluetongue, Schmallenberg disease and African horse sickness. In the past decades, these diseases have led to important economic losses for farmers in Europe. Vector abundance is a key factor in determining the risk of vector-borne disease spread and it is, therefore, important to predict the abundance of Culicoides species involved in the transmission of these pathogens. The objectives of this study were to model and map the monthly abundances of Culicoides in Europe.

Methods: We obtained entomological data from 904 farms in nine European countries (Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway) from 2007 to 2013. Using environmental and climatic predictors from satellite imagery and the machine learning technique Random Forests, we predicted the monthly average abundance at a 1 km resolution. We used independent test sets for validation and to assess model performance.

Results: The predictive power of the resulting models varied according to month and the Culicoides species/ensembles predicted. Model performance was lower for winter months. Performance was higher for the Obsoletus ensemble, followed by the Pulicaris ensemble, while the model for Culicoides imicola showed a poor performance. Distribution and abundance patterns corresponded well with the known distributions in Europe. The Random Forests model approach was able to distinguish differences in abundance between countries but was not able to predict vector abundance at individual farm level.

Conclusions: The models and maps presented here represent an initial attempt to capture large scale geographical and temporal variations in Culicoides abundance. The models are a first step towards producing abundance inputs for R modelling of Culicoides-borne infections at a continental scale.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-020-04053-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7161244PMC
April 2020

Red deer () Did Not Play the Role of Maintenance Host for Bluetongue Virus in France: The Burden of Proof by Long-Term Wildlife Monitoring and Snapshots.

Viruses 2019 09 27;11(10). Epub 2019 Sep 27.

UMR Virologie, INRA, Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d'Alfort, laboratoire de santé animale d'Alfort, ANSES, Université Paris-Est, 94700 Maisons-Alfort, France, (C.V.).

Bluetongue virus (BTV) is a -borne pathogen infecting both domestic and wild ruminants. In Europe, the Red Deer () (RD) is considered a potential BTV reservoir, but persistent sylvatic cycle has not yet been demonstrated. In this paper, we explored the dynamics of BTV1 and BTV8 serotypes in the RD in France, and the potential role of that species in the re-emergence of BTV8 in livestock by 2015 (i.e., 5 years after the former last domestic cases). We performed 8 years of longitudinal monitoring (2008-2015) among 15 RD populations and 3065 individuals. We compared communities and feeding habits within domestic and wild animal environments (51,380 samples). diversity (>30 species) varied between them, but bridge-species able to feed on both wild and domestic hosts were abundant in both situations. Despite the presence of competent vectors in natural environments, BTV1 and BTV8 strains never spread in RD along the green corridors out of the domestic outbreak range. Decreasing antibody trends with no PCR results two years after the last domestic outbreak suggests that seropositive young RD were not recently infected but carried maternal antibodies. We conclude that RD did not play a role in spreading or maintaining BTV in France.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v11100903DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6832957PMC
September 2019

Update of the species checklist of Culicoides Latreille, 1809 biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) of Morocco.

Parasit Vectors 2019 Sep 24;12(1):459. Epub 2019 Sep 24.

ASTRE, Univ Montpellier, Cirad, INRA, Montpellier, France.

Background: Investigations of Culicoides fauna, including inventories, were carried out in Morocco at different periods after the country had faced major bluetongue and African horse sickness outbreaks. However, no comprehensive reference publication has provided a clear overview of the Culicoides species diversity. This study reviewed available data on Culicoides biting midge species in Morocco from 1968 to 2015 (published and grey literature in French and English) in order to revise the current checklist, in light of state of the art taxonomic and systematic knowledge, and confirmed the checklist with morphological and molecular identifications of specimens collected from the region of Rabat.

Methods: Literature related to Culicoides collections in Morocco was collated. Authors were contacted to obtain raw data and additional information for the collections. Fresh Culicoides material was collected and examined from two sites around Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Each collected individual was examined and morphologically identified, if possible, to the species level. In addition, molecular identification was performed to separate closely related species, to confirm difficult morphological identifications and to confirm new species records.

Results: A total of 6121 individuals of Culicoides spp. were collected and analyzed and at least 17 species were identified: C. cataneii/C. gejgelensis, C. circumscriptus, C. fagineus, C. festivipennis, C. imicola, C. jumineri, C. kingi, C. longipennis, C. montanus, C. newsteadi, C. obsoletus, C. paolae, C. parotti, C. puncticollis, C. sahariensis, C. scoticus and C. subfagineus. Seven species were confirmed using phylogenetic analyses. Two new species records for Morocco are reported: C. paolae and C. subfagineus.

Conclusions: The Moroccan fauna of Culicoides now includes 54 valid species. Further work would certainly increase this total, as one of the clades we identified was not affiliated to any described and valid species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-019-3720-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6757417PMC
September 2019

Modeling Culicoides abundance in mainland France: implications for surveillance.

Parasit Vectors 2019 Aug 6;12(1):391. Epub 2019 Aug 6.

Unité Epidémiologie et Appui à la Surveillance, Laboratoire de Lyon, Université de Lyon - ANSES, 31 Avenue Tony Garnier, 69007, Lyon, France.

Background: Biting midges of the genus Culicoides Latreille (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are involved in the transmission of several viruses affecting humans and livestock, particularly bluetongue (BTV). Over the last decade, Culicoides surveillance has been conducted discontinuously and at various temporal and spatial scales in mainland France following the BTV epizootics in 2008-2009 and its reemergence and continuous circulation since 2015. The ability to predict seasonal dynamics and spatial abundance of Culicoides spp. is a key element in identifying periods and areas at high risk of transmission in order to strengthen surveillance for early detection and to establish seasonally disease-free zones. The objective of this study was to model the abundance of Culicoides spp. using surveillance data.

Methods: A mixed-effect Poisson model, adjusted for overdispersion and taking into account temperature data at each trap location, was used to model the weekly relative abundance of Culicoides spp. over a year in 24 vector zones, based on surveillance data collected during 2009-2012. Vector zones are the spatial units used for Culicoides surveillance since 2016 in mainland France.

Results: The curves of the predicted annual abundance of Culicoides spp. in vector zones showed three different shapes: unimodal, bimodal or plateau, reflecting the temporal variability of the observed counts between zones. For each vector zone, the model enabled to identify periods of vector activity ranging from 25 to 51 weeks.

Conclusions: Although the data were collected for surveillance purposes, our modeling approach integrating vector data with daily temperatures, which are known to be major drivers of Culicoides spp. activity, provided areas-specific predictions of Culicoides spp. abundance. Our findings provide decisions makers with essential information to identify risk periods in each vector zone and guide the allocation of resources for surveillance and control. Knowledge of Culicoides spp. dynamics is also of primary importance for modeling the risk of establishment and spread of midge-borne diseases in mainland France.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-019-3642-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683357PMC
August 2019

Culicoides Latreille in the sun: faunistic inventory of Culicoides species (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) in Mayotte (Comoros Archipelago, Indian Ocean).

Parasit Vectors 2019 Mar 22;12(1):135. Epub 2019 Mar 22.

ASTRE, Univ Montpellier, Cirad, INRA, Montpellier, France.

Background: The south-west insular territories of the Indian Ocean have recently received attention concerning the diversity of arthropods of medical or veterinary interest. While a recent study highlighted the circulation of Culicoides-borne viruses, namely bluetongue and epizootic hemorrhagic disease, with clinical cases in Mayotte (comprising two islands, Petite-Terre and Grand-Terre), Comoros Archipelago, no data have been published concerning the species diversity of Culicoides present on the two islands.

Results: A total of 194,734 biting midges were collected in 18 sites, covering two collection sessions (April and June) in Mayotte. Our study reports for the first time livestock-associated Culicoides species and recorded at least 17 described Afrotropical species and one undescribed species. The most abundant species during the April collection session were C. trifasciellus (84.1%), C. bolitinos (5.4%), C. enderleini (3.9%), C. leucostictus (3.3%) and C. rhizophorensis (2.1%). All other species including C. imicola represented less than 1% of the total collection. Abundance ranged between 126-78,842 females with a mean and median abundance of 14,338 and 5111 individuals/night/site, respectively. During the June collection, the abundance per night was low, ranging between 6-475 individuals. Despite low abundance, C. trifasciellus and C. bolitinos were still the most abundant species. Culicoides sp. #50 is recorded for the first time outside South Africa.

Conclusions: Our study reports for the first time the Culicoides species list for Mayotte, Comoros Archipelago, Indian Ocean. The low abundance and rare occurrence of C. imicola, which is usually considered the most abundant species in the Afrotropical region, is unexpected. The most abundant and frequent species is C. trifasciellus, which is not considered as a vector species so far, but its role needs further investigation. Further work is needed to describe Culicoides sp. #50 and to carry on faunistic investigations on the other islands of the archipelago as well as in neighboring countries.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-019-3379-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6431056PMC
March 2019

Identification of Eilat virus and prevalence of infection among Culex pipiens L. populations, Morocco, 2016.

Virology 2019 04 12;530:85-88. Epub 2019 Feb 12.

Department of animal pathology and public health. Hassan II Agronomy & Veterinary Medicine Institute, Rabat, Morocco. Electronic address:

Eilat virus (EILV) is described as one of the few alphaviruses restricted to insects. We report the record of a nearly-complete sequence of an alphavirus genome showing 95% identity with EILV during a metagenomic analysis performed on 1488 unblood-fed females and 1076 larvae of the mosquito Culex pipiens captured in Rabat (Morocco). Genetic distance and phylogenetic analyses placed the EILV-Morocco as a variant of EILV. The observed infection rates in both larvae and adults suggested an active circulation of the virus in Rabat and its maintenance in the environment either through vertical transmission or through horizontal infection of larvae in breeding sites. This is the first report of EILV out of Israel and in Culex pipiens populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.virol.2019.02.007DOI Listing
April 2019

Monthly variation in the probability of presence of adult Culicoides populations in nine European countries and the implications for targeted surveillance.

Parasit Vectors 2018 Nov 29;11(1):608. Epub 2018 Nov 29.

Division for Diagnostics and Scientific Advice, National Veterinary Institute, Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Lyngby, Denmark.

Background: Biting midges of the genus Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are small hematophagous insects responsible for the transmission of bluetongue virus, Schmallenberg virus and African horse sickness virus to wild and domestic ruminants and equids. Outbreaks of these viruses have caused economic damage within the European Union. The spatio-temporal distribution of biting midges is a key factor in identifying areas with the potential for disease spread. The aim of this study was to identify and map areas of neglectable adult activity for each month in an average year. Average monthly risk maps can be used as a tool when allocating resources for surveillance and control programs within Europe.

Methods: We modelled the occurrence of C. imicola and the Obsoletus and Pulicaris ensembles using existing entomological surveillance data from Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Poland. The monthly probability of each vector species and ensembles being present in Europe based on climatic and environmental input variables was estimated with the machine learning technique Random Forest. Subsequently, the monthly probability was classified into three classes: Absence, Presence and Uncertain status. These three classes are useful for mapping areas of no risk, areas of high-risk targeted for animal movement restrictions, and areas with an uncertain status that need active entomological surveillance to determine whether or not vectors are present.

Results: The distribution of Culicoides species ensembles were in agreement with their previously reported distribution in Europe. The Random Forest models were very accurate in predicting the probability of presence for C. imicola (mean AUC = 0.95), less accurate for the Obsoletus ensemble (mean AUC = 0.84), while the lowest accuracy was found for the Pulicaris ensemble (mean AUC = 0.71). The most important environmental variables in the models were related to temperature and precipitation for all three groups.

Conclusions: The duration periods with low or null adult activity can be derived from the associated monthly distribution maps, and it was also possible to identify and map areas with uncertain predictions. In the absence of ongoing vector surveillance, these maps can be used by veterinary authorities to classify areas as likely vector-free or as likely risk areas from southern Spain to northern Sweden with acceptable precision. The maps can also focus costly entomological surveillance to seasons and areas where the predictions and vector-free status remain uncertain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-018-3182-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6267925PMC
November 2018

An update of the Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) checklist for the Balkans.

Parasit Vectors 2018 Aug 13;11(1):462. Epub 2018 Aug 13.

CIRAD, UMR ASTRE, F-34398, Montpellier, France.

Background: The prime significance of species belonging to the genus Culicoides Latreille, 1809 (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) is their ability to transmit viruses such as bluetongue virus (BTV) to wild and domestic ruminants. Prior to 1998, BTV was considered exotic in Europe, but according to recent history of its outbreaks, it has become endemic in southern and eastern European countries circulating beyond its expected historical limits, into the Balkan region. The wind-borne long-distance dispersal of Culicoides spp. over water bodies and local spreading between farms emphasize the necessity of filling in the information gaps regarding vector species distribution. In most Balkan countries, data on Culicoides fauna and species distribution are lacking, or information is old and scarce.

Results: During this study, 8586 specimens belonging to 41 species were collected. We present the first faunistic data on Culicoides species in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia. For other countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Croatia), all historical records were compiled for the first time and then expanded with our findings to various extents. In all countries, confirmed or suspected BTV vector species belonging to the subgenera Avaritia and Culicoides were collected. The total number of species sampled during our field collections was 20 in Bosnia and Herzegovina (15 new records), 10 in Bulgaria (2 new records), 10 in Croatia (5 new records), 13 in FYROM, 9 in Kosovo, 15 in Montenegro, and 28 in Serbia. Of these, 14 species were registered for the first time in this part of the Balkans.

Conclusions: This paper provides the first data about Culicoides fauna in FYROM, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as new records and an update on the checklists for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Croatia. These findings provide preliminary insights into the routes of BTV introduction and spreading within the Balkans, and present a valuable contribution to further research related to Culicoides-borne diseases in Europe.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-018-3051-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6088421PMC
August 2018

Spatial and temporal variation in the abundance of Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) in nine European countries.

Parasit Vectors 2018 02 27;11(1):112. Epub 2018 Feb 27.

Division for Diagnostics and Scientific Advice, National Veterinary Institute, Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Copenhagen, Denmark.

Background: Biting midges of the genus Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are vectors of bluetongue virus (BTV), African horse sickness virus and Schmallenberg virus (SBV). Outbreaks of both BTV and SBV have affected large parts of Europe. The spread of these diseases depends largely on vector distribution and abundance. The aim of this analysis was to identify and quantify major spatial patterns and temporal trends in the distribution and seasonal variation of observed Culicoides abundance in nine countries in Europe.

Methods: We gathered existing Culicoides data from Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Poland. In total, 31,429 Culicoides trap collections were available from 904 ruminant farms across these countries between 2007 and 2013.

Results: The Obsoletus ensemble was distributed widely in Europe and accounted for 83% of all 8,842,998 Culicoides specimens in the dataset, with the highest mean monthly abundance recorded in France, Germany and southern Norway. The Pulicaris ensemble accounted for only 12% of the specimens and had a relatively southerly and easterly spatial distribution compared to the Obsoletus ensemble. Culicoides imicola Kieffer was only found in Spain and the southernmost part of France. There was a clear spatial trend in the accumulated annual abundance from southern to northern Europe, with the Obsoletus ensemble steadily increasing from 4000 per year in southern Europe to 500,000 in Scandinavia. The Pulicaris ensemble showed a very different pattern, with an increase in the accumulated annual abundance from 1600 in Spain, peaking at 41,000 in northern Germany and then decreasing again toward northern latitudes. For the two species ensembles and C. imicola, the season began between January and April, with later start dates and increasingly shorter vector seasons at more northerly latitudes.

Conclusion: We present the first maps of seasonal Culicoides abundance in large parts of Europe covering a gradient from southern Spain to northern Scandinavia. The identified temporal trends and spatial patterns are useful for planning the allocation of resources for international prevention and surveillance programmes in the European Union.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-018-2706-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5828119PMC
February 2018

An Integrative Eco-Epidemiological Analysis of West Nile Virus Transmission.

Ecohealth 2017 09 5;14(3):474-489. Epub 2017 Jun 5.

CIRAD, UPR AGIRs, Montpellier, France.

West Nile disease, caused by the West Nile virus (WNV), is a mosquito-borne zoonotic disease affecting humans and horses that involves wild birds as amplifying hosts. The mechanisms of WNV transmission remain unclear in Europe where the occurrence of outbreaks has dramatically increased in recent years. We used a dataset on the competence, distribution, abundance, diversity and dispersal of wild bird hosts and mosquito vectors to test alternative hypotheses concerning the transmission of WNV in Southern France. We modelled the successive processes of introduction, amplification, dispersal and spillover of WNV to incidental hosts based on host-vector contact rates on various land cover types and over four seasons. We evaluated the relative importance of the mechanisms tested using two independent serological datasets of WNV antibodies collected in wild birds and horses. We found that the same transmission processes (seasonal virus introduction by migratory birds, Culex modestus mosquitoes as amplifying vectors, heterogeneity in avian host competence, absence of 'dilution effect') best explain the spatial variations in WNV seroprevalence in the two serological datasets. Our results provide new insights on the pathways of WNV introduction, amplification and spillover and the contribution of bird and mosquito species to WNV transmission in Southern France.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10393-017-1249-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5662683PMC
September 2017

Estimating the economic impact of a possible equine and human epidemic of West Nile virus infection in Belgium.

Euro Surveill 2016 Aug;21(31)

University of Liege, Liege, Belgium.

This study aimed at estimating, in a prospective scenario, the potential economic impact of a possible epidemic of WNV infection in Belgium, based on 2012 values for the equine and human health sectors, in order to increase preparedness and help decision-makers. Modelling of risk areas, based on the habitat suitable for Culex pipiens, the main vector of the virus, allowed us to determine equine and human populations at risk. Characteristics of the different clinical forms of the disease based on past epidemics in Europe allowed morbidity among horses and humans to be estimated. The main costs for the equine sector were vaccination and replacement value of dead or euthanised horses. The choice of the vaccination strategy would have important consequences in terms of cost. Vaccination of the country's whole population of horses, based on a worst-case scenario, would cost more than EUR 30 million; for areas at risk, the cost would be around EUR 16-17 million. Regarding the impact on human health, short-term costs and socio-economic losses were estimated for patients who developed the neuroinvasive form of the disease, as no vaccine is available yet for humans. Hospital charges of around EUR 3,600 for a case of West Nile neuroinvasive disease and EUR 4,500 for a case of acute flaccid paralysis would be the major financial consequence of an epidemic of West Nile virus infection in humans in Belgium.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2016.21.31.30309DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4998509PMC
August 2016

Range expansion of the Bluetongue vector, Culicoides imicola, in continental France likely due to rare wind-transport events.

Sci Rep 2016 06 6;6:27247. Epub 2016 Jun 6.

Cirad, UMR15 CMAEE, 34398; INRA, UMR1309 CMAEE, 34398 Montpellier, France.

The role of the northward expansion of Culicoides imicola Kieffer in recent and unprecedented outbreaks of Culicoides-borne arboviruses in southern Europe has been a significant point of contention. We combined entomological surveys, movement simulations of air-borne particles, and population genetics to reconstruct the chain of events that led to a newly colonized French area nestled at the northern foot of the Pyrenees. Simulating the movement of air-borne particles evidenced frequent wind-transport events allowing, within at most 36 hours, the immigration of midges from north-eastern Spain and Balearic Islands, and, as rare events, their immigration from Corsica. Completing the puzzle, population genetic analyses discriminated Corsica as the origin of the new population and identified two successive colonization events within west-Mediterranean basin. Our findings are of considerable importance when trying to understand the invasion of new territories by expanding species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep27247DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4893744PMC
June 2016

Spatio-temporal genetic variation of the biting midge vector species Culicoides imicola (Ceratopogonidae) Kieffer in France.

Parasit Vectors 2016 Mar 11;9:141. Epub 2016 Mar 11.

Cirad, UMR15 Contrôle des Maladies Animales Exotiques et Emergentes, Campus International de Baillarguet, TA-A15/G, 34398, Montpellier, France.

Background: Introduction of vector species into new areas represents a main driver for the emergence and worldwide spread of vector-borne diseases. This poses a substantial threat to livestock economies and public health. Culicoides imicola Kieffer, a major vector species of economically important animal viruses, is described with an apparent range expansion in Europe where it has been recorded in south-eastern continental France, its known northern distribution edge. This questioned on further C. imicola population extension and establishment into new territories. Studying the spatio-temporal genetic variation of expanding populations can provide valuable information for the design of reliable models of future spread.

Methods: Entomological surveys and population genetic approaches were used to assess the spatio-temporal population dynamics of C. imicola in France. Entomological surveys (2-3 consecutive years) were used to evaluate population abundances and local spread in continental France (28 sites in the Var department) and in Corsica (4 sites). We also genotyped at nine microsatellite loci insects from 3 locations in the Var department over 3 years (2008, 2010 and 2012) and from 6 locations in Corsica over 4 years (2002, 2008, 2010 and 2012).

Results: Entomological surveys confirmed the establishment of C. imicola populations in Var department, but indicated low abundances and no apparent expansion there within the studied period. Higher population abundances were recorded in Corsica. Our genetic data suggested the absence of spatio-temporal genetic changes within each region but a significant increase of the genetic differentiation between Corsican and Var populations through time. The lack of intra-region population structure may result from strong gene flow among populations. We discussed the observed temporal variation between Corsica and Var as being the result of genetic drift following introduction, and/or the genetic characteristics of populations at their range edge.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that local range expansion of C. imicola in continental France may be slowed by the low population abundances and unsuitable climatic and environmental conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-016-1426-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4788842PMC
March 2016

How do species, population and active ingredient influence insecticide susceptibility in Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) of veterinary importance?

Parasit Vectors 2015 Aug 28;8:439. Epub 2015 Aug 28.

Cirad, UMR15 CMAEE; INRA, UMR1309 CMAEE, 34398, Montpellier, France.

Background: Culicoides biting midges are biological vectors of internationally important arboviruses of livestock and equines. Insecticides are often employed against Culicoides as a part of vector control measures, but systematic assessments of their efficacy have rarely been attempted. The objective of the present study is to determine baseline susceptibility of multiple Culicoides vector species and populations in Europe and Africa to the most commonly used insecticide active ingredients. Six active ingredients are tested: three that are based on synthetic pyrethroids (alpha-cypermethrin, deltamethrin and permethrin) and three on organophosphates (phoxim, diazinon and chlorpyrifos-methyl).

Methods: Susceptibility tests were conducted on 29,064 field-collected individuals of Culicoides obsoletus Meigen, Culicoides imicola Kieffer and a laboratory-reared Culicoides nubeculosus Meigen strain using a modified World Health Organization assay. Populations of Culicoides were tested from seven locations in four different countries (France, Spain, Senegal and South Africa) and at least four concentrations of laboratory grade active ingredients were assessed for each population.

Results: The study revealed that insecticide susceptibility varied at both a species and population level, but that broad conclusions could be drawn regarding the efficacy of active ingredients. Synthetic pyrethroid insecticides were found to inflict greater mortality than organophosphate active ingredients and the colony strain of C. nubeculosus was significantly more susceptible than field populations. Among the synthetic pyrethroids, deltamethrin was found to be the most toxic active ingredient for all species and populations.

Conclusions: The data presented represent the first parallel and systematic assessment of Culicoides insecticide susceptibility across several countries. As such, they are an important baseline reference to monitor the susceptibility status of Culicoides to current insecticides and also to assess the toxicity of new active ingredients with practical implications for vector control strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-015-1042-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4551713PMC
August 2015

Host preferences and circadian rhythm of Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), vectors of African horse sickness and bluetongue viruses in Senegal.

Acta Trop 2015 Sep 19;149:239-45. Epub 2015 Jun 19.

Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement, Unité Mixte de Recherche Contrôle des Maladies Animales Exotiques et Emergentes, Campus International de Baillarguet, F34398, Montpellier, France.

African horse sickness- and bluetongue virus are orbiviruses transmitted by Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) to horses and to ruminants, respectively. Since the last epizootic outbreak of African horse sickness in 2007 in Senegal, extensive investigations have been undertaken to improve our knowledge on Culicoides species involved locally in the transmission of the virus. The purpose of this study was to compare and quantify the host preferences of potential vectors of these orbiviruses on horse and sheep and to study their circadian rhythm. We found that Culicoides oxystoma and species of the sub-genus Avaritia (Culicoides imicola, Culicoides bolitinos and Culicoides pseudopallidipennis) had a preference for horse when compared to sheep (the predicted ratio between horse and sheep was 80 for C. oxystoma and 26 for C. imicola), and were mostly crepuscular: C. oxystoma had continuous activity throughout the diel with peaks in numbers collected after sunrise and sunset, while C. imicola was mostly nocturnal with peak after sunset. Unexpectedly, species of the subgenus Lasiohelea was also collected during this study. This diurnal biting species was a nuisance pest for both animal species used as bait.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2015.06.012DOI Listing
September 2015

Circadian activity of Culicoides oxystoma (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), potential vector of bluetongue and African horse sickness viruses in the Niayes area, Senegal.

Parasitol Res 2015 Aug 24;114(8):3151-8. Epub 2015 May 24.

Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles, Laboratoire National de l'Elevage et de Recherches Vétérinaires, Route du Front de Terre, BP 2057, Dakar, Senegal.

Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are important vectors of arboviruses in Africa. Culicoides oxystoma has been recently recorded in the Niayes region of Senegal (West Africa) and its high abundance on horses suggests a potential implication in the transmission of the African horse sickness virus in this region. This species is also suspected to transmit bluetongue virus to imported breeds of sheep. Little information is available on the biology and ecology of Culicoides in Africa. Therefore, understanding the circadian host-seeking activity of this putative vector is of primary importance to assess the risk of the transmission of Culicoides-borne pathogens. To achieve this objective, midges were collected using a sheep-baited trap over two consecutive 24-h periods during four seasons in 2012. A total of 441 Culicoides, belonging to nine species including 418 (94.8%) specimens of C. oxystoma, were collected. C. oxystoma presented a bimodal circadian host-seeking activity at sunrise and sunset in July and was active 3 h after sunrise in April. Daily activity appeared mainly related to time periods. Morning activity increased with the increasing temperature up to about 27 °C and then decreased with the decreasing humidity, suggesting thermal limits for C. oxystoma activity. Evening activity increased with the increasing humidity and the decreasing temperature, comprised between 20 and 27 °C according to seasons. Interestingly, males were more abundant in our sampling sessions, with similar activity periods than females, suggesting potential animal host implication in the facilitation of reproduction. Finally, the low number of C. oxystoma collected render practical vector-control recommendations difficult to provide and highlight the lack of knowledge on the bio-ecology of this species of veterinary interest.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00436-015-4534-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4513201PMC
August 2015

Does host receptivity or host exposure drives dynamics of infectious diseases? The case of West Nile Virus in wild birds.

Infect Genet Evol 2015 Jul 17;33:11-9. Epub 2015 Apr 17.

UPR AGIRS (CIRAD ES), Montpellier, France. Electronic address:

Infection is a complex biological process involving reciprocally both the intensity of host exposure to a pathogen as well as the host intrinsic "receptivity", or permissiveness to infection. Disentangling their respective contributions is currently seen as a fundamental gap in our knowledge. Here, we take the advantage of a rare semi-natural experiment context provided by the emergence of the West Nile Virus (WNV) in North America. Focusing on the pathogen emergence period, we combine datasets from (i) wild birds exposed to WNV in an urban zoo to evaluate the species intrinsic receptivity to WNV infection in an environment where exposure to WNV vectors can be assumed to be relatively homogenous for all captive species, and (ii) from free-ranging birds in their natural habitat where species ecological traits is expected to influence their exposure to WNV vectors. We show that ecological trait and intrinsic receptivity to infection both contribute similarly to the species variation in WNV seroprevalence, but considering only one of them can lead to erroneous conclusions. We then argue that degree of pathogen host specialization could be a fundamental factor for the respective contribution of species exposure and receptivity for numerous pathogens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2015.04.011DOI Listing
July 2015

Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) midges, the vectors of African horse sickness virus--a host/vector contact study in the Niayes area of Senegal.

Parasit Vectors 2015 Jan 21;8:39. Epub 2015 Jan 21.

ISRA, Laboratoire National de l'Elevage et de Recherches Vétérinaires, Route Front de Terre, Dakar, Senegal.

Background: African horse sickness (AHS) is an equine disease endemic to Senegal. The African horse sickness virus (AHSV) is transmitted to the mammalian hosts by midges of the Culicoides Latreille genus. During the last epizootic outbreak of AHS in Senegal in 2007, 1,169 horses died from this disease entailing an estimated cost of 1.4 million euros. In spite of the serious animal health and economic implications of AHS, very little is known about determinants involved in transmission such as contact between horses and the Culicoides species suspected of being its vectors.

Methods: The monthly variation in host/vector contact was determined in the Niayes area, Senegal, an area which was severely affected by the 2007 outbreak of AHS. A horse-baited trap and two suction light traps (OVI type) were set up at each of five sites for three consecutive nights every month for one year.

Results: Of 254,338 Culicoides midges collected 209,543 (82.4%) were female and 44,795 (17.6%) male. Nineteen of the 41 species collected were new distribution records for Senegal. This increased the number of described Culicoides species found in Senegal to 53. Only 19 species, of the 41 species found in light trap, were collected in the horse-baited trap (23,669 specimens) largely dominated by Culicoides oxystoma (22,300 specimens, i.e. 94.2%) followed by Culicoides imicola (482 specimens, i.e. 2.0%) and Culicoides kingi (446 specimens, i.e. 1.9%).

Conclusions: Culicoides oxystoma should be considered as a potential vector of AHSV in the Niayes area of Senegal due to its abundance on horses and its role in the transmission of other Culicoides-borne viruses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-014-0624-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4307892PMC
January 2015

Worldwide niche and future potential distribution of Culicoides imicola, a major vector of bluetongue and African horse sickness viruses.

PLoS One 2014 12;9(11):e112491. Epub 2014 Nov 12.

InSTePP, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, United States of America; CSIRO Agriculture Flagship and Biosecurity Flagship, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

We modelled the ecoclimatic niche of Culicoides imicola, a major arthropod vector of midge-borne viral pathogens affecting ruminants and equids, at fine scale and on a global extent, so as to provide insight into current and future risks of disease epizootics, and increase current knowledge of the species' ecology. Based on the known distribution and ecology of C. imicola, the species' response to monthly climatic conditions was characterised using CLIMEX with 10' spatial resolution climatic datasets. The species' climatic niche was projected worldwide and under future climatic scenarios. The validated model highlights the role of irrigation in supporting the occurrence of C. imicola in arid regions. In Europe, the modelled potential distribution of C. imicola extended further West than its reported distribution, raising questions regarding ongoing process of colonization and non-climatic habitat factors. The CLIMEX model highlighted similar ecological niches for C. imicola and the Australasian C. brevitarsis raising questions on biogeography and biosecurity. Under the climate change scenarios considered, its' modelled potential distribution could expand northward in the Northern hemisphere, whereas in Africa its range may contract in the future. The biosecurity risks from bluetongue and African horse sickness viruses need to be re-evaluated in regions where the vector's niche is suitable. Under a warmer climate, the risk of vector-borne epizootic pathogens such as bluetongue and African horse sickness viruses are likely to increase as the climate suitability for C. imicola shifts poleward, especially in Western Europe.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0112491PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4229218PMC
July 2015

Towards the PCR-based identification of Palaearctic Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae): results from an international ring trial targeting four species of the subgenus Avaritia.

Parasit Vectors 2014 May 14;7:223. Epub 2014 May 14.

Cirad, UMR15 CMAEE, 34398 Montpellier, France.

Background: Biting midges of the genus Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are biological vectors of internationally important arboviruses. To understand the role of Culicoides in the transmission of these viruses, it is essential to correctly identify the species involved. Within the western Palaearctic region, the main suspected vector species, C. obsoletus, C. scoticus, C. dewulfi and C. chiopterus, have similar wing patterns, which makes it difficult to separate and identify them correctly.

Methods: In this study, designed as an inter-laboratory ring trial with twelve partners from Europe and North Africa, we assess four PCR-based assays which are used routinely to differentiate the four species of Culicoides listed above. The assays based on mitochondrial or ribosomal DNA or microarray hybridisation were tested using aliquots of Culicoides DNA (extracted using commercial kits), crude lysates of ground specimens and whole Culicoides (265 individuals), and non-Culicoides Ceratopogonidae (13 individuals) collected from across Europe.

Results: A total of 800 molecular assays were implemented. The in-house assays functioned effectively, although specificity and sensitivity varied according to the molecular marker and DNA extraction method used. The Obsoletus group specificity was overall high (95-99%) while the sensitivity varied greatly (59.6-100%). DNA extraction methods impacted the sensitivity of the assays as well as the type of sample used as template for the DNA extraction.

Conclusions: The results are discussed in terms of current use of species diagnostic assays and the future development of molecular tools for the rapid differentiation of cryptic Culicoides species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1756-3305-7-223DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4024274PMC
May 2014

The emergence of Schmallenberg virus across Culicoides communities and ecosystems in Europe.

Prev Vet Med 2014 Oct 18;116(4):360-9. Epub 2014 Mar 18.

Cirad, UMR15 CMAEE, F-34398 Montpellier, France; INRA, UMR1309 CMAEE, F-34398 Montpellier, France.

Schmallenberg virus (SBV), a novel arboviral pathogen, has emerged and spread across Europe since 2011 inflicting congenital deformities in the offspring of infected adult ruminants. Several species of Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) have been implicated in the transmission of SBV through studies conducted in northern Europe. In this study Culicoides from SBV outbreak areas of mainland France and Italy (Sardinia) were screened for viral RNA. The role of both C. obsoletus and the Obsoletus complex (C. obsoletus and C. scoticus) in transmission of SBV were confirmed in France and SBV was also discovered in a pool of C. nubeculosus for the first time, implicating this species as a potential vector. While collections in Sardinia were dominated by C. imicola, only relatively small quantities of SBV RNA were detected in pools of this species and conclusive evidence of its potential role in transmission is required. In addition to these field-based studies, infection rates in colony-derived individuals of C. nubeculosus and field-collected C. scoticus are also examined in the laboratory. Rates of infection in C. nubeculosus were low, confirming previous studies, while preliminary examination of C. scoticus demonstrated that while this species can replicate SBV to a potentially transmissible level, further work is required to fully define comparative competence between species in the region. Finally, the oral competence for SBV of two abundant and widespread mosquito vector species in the laboratory is assessed. Neither Aedes albopictus nor Culex pipiens were demonstrated to replicate SBV to transmissible levels and appear unlikely to play a major role in transmission. Other vector competence data produced from studies across Europe to date is then comprehensively reviewed and compared with that generated previously for bluetongue virus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2014.03.007DOI Listing
October 2014

Seasonal dynamics of Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) biting midges, potential vectors of African horse sickness and bluetongue viruses in the Niayes area of Senegal.

Parasit Vectors 2014 Mar 31;7:147. Epub 2014 Mar 31.

Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles, Laboratoire National de l'Elevage et de Recherches Vétérinaires, Dakar, Sénégal.

Background: The African horse sickness epizootic in Senegal in 2007 caused considerable mortality in the equine population and hence major economic losses. The vectors involved in the transmission of this arbovirus have never been studied specifically in Senegal. This first study of the spatial and temporal dynamics of the Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) species, potential vectors of African horse sickness in Senegal, was conducted at five sites (Mbao, Parc Hann, Niague, Pout and Thies) in the Niayes area, which was affected by the outbreak.

Methods: Two Onderstepoort light traps were used at each site for three nights of consecutive collection per month over one year to measure the apparent abundance of the Culicoides midges.

Results: In total, 224,665 specimens belonging to at least 24 different species (distributed among 11 groups of species) of the Culicoides genus were captured in 354 individual collections. Culicoides oxystoma, Culicoides kingi, Culicoides imicola, Culicoides enderleini and Culicoides nivosus were the most abundant and most frequent species at the collection sites. Peaks of abundance coincide with the rainy season in September and October.

Conclusions: In addition to C. imicola, considered a major vector for the African horse sickness virus, C. oxystoma may also be involved in the transmission of this virus in Senegal given its abundance in the vicinity of horses and its suspected competence for other arboviruses including bluetongue virus. This study depicted a site-dependent spatial variability in the dynamics of the populations of the five major species in relation to the eco-climatic conditions at each site.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1756-3305-7-147DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3973751PMC
March 2014

Bluetongue, Schmallenberg - what is next? Culicoides-borne viral diseases in the 21st Century.

BMC Vet Res 2014 Mar 31;10:77. Epub 2014 Mar 31.

Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 1, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands.

In the past decade, two pathogens transmitted by Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), bluetongue virus and Schmallenberg virus, have caused serious economic losses to the European livestock industry, most notably affecting sheep and cattle. These outbreaks of arboviral disease have highlighted large knowledge gaps on the biology and ecology of indigenous Culicoides species. With these research gaps in mind, and as a means of assessing what potential disease outbreaks to expect in the future, an international workshop was held in May 2013 at Wageningen University, The Netherlands. It brought together research groups from Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and The Netherlands, with diverse backgrounds in vector ecology, epidemiology, entomology, virology, animal health, modelling, and genetics. Here, we report on the key findings of this workshop.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1746-6148-10-77DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3978055PMC
March 2014