Am J Trop Med Hyg 2019 May;100(5):1230-1235
Instituto de Virología "Dr. J. M. Vanella", Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Facultad Ciencias Médicas, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Enfermera Gordillo Gómez s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Córdoba, Argentina.
Many species of ticks are commonly found infesting wild birds in South America, where birds are important hosts for several arboviruses, such as West Nile virus (WNV) and St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV). In this study, WNV and SLEV transmission experiments were performed to evaluate the vector competence of three South American tick species: , , and . Larval and nymphal ticks of each species were allowed to feed on chicks needle inoculated with WNV or SLEV. All three species acquired either WNV or SLEV through larval feeding, with infection rates varying from 3.1% to 100% for WNV and from 0% to 35.7% for SLEV in engorged larvae. Transstadial perpetuation of the viruses was demonstrated in the molted nymphs, with WNV infection rates varying from 0% to 33.7% and SLEV infection rates from 13.6% to 23.8%. Although nymphal ticks also acquired either virus through feeding, transstadial perpetuation to adult ticks was lower, with virus detection in only 3.2% of and 11.5% of unfed adult ticks. On the other hand, vector competence for nymphs (exposed to WNV or SLEV through larval feeding) and adult ticks (exposed to WNV or SLEV through larval or nymphal feeding) was null in all cases. Although our results indicate transstadial perpetuation of WNV or SLEV in the three tick species, the ticks were not competent to transmit these agents to susceptible hosts. The role of these ixodid tick species in the epidemiology of WNV and SLEV might be insignificant, even though at least and are frequent bird ticks in Latin America, so the virus could survive winter in the fed larvae. However, future studies are required to determine the implications that this could have, as well as analyze the vector competence of other common bird tick species in South America.