Originating from Southeast Asia, Ae. aegypti is an aggressive biter that has invaded the world and is now present on all inhabited continents, including temperate Europe, due to its ability to endure harsh winter conditions.
As the second most important vector of human viral pathogens, Ae. albopictus is displacing Ae. aegypti populations due to competitive advantages. But it is not known if Ae. albopictus could trigger large-scale Zika virus epidemics.
To address this question, the researchers exposed Ae. albopictus to Zika virus and assessed infection rates in experiments, modeled the dynamics of Zika virus infection within individual humans, and used epidemiological simulations. The highest risk of transmission occurred during the pre-symptomatic stage of the disease.
At this dose, mosquito infection probability was estimated to be 20%, and 21 days were required to reach median systemic infection rates. Despite these unfavorable characteristics for transmission, Ae. albopictus was still able to trigger large outbreaks in a simulated environment in the presence of sufficiently high mosquito densities and biting rates.
The authors conclude, “The complementary combination of dose-dependent experimental infection, modeling of intra-human viremia dynamics, and in silico epidemiological simulations confirms the low epidemic potential of Aedes albopictus for Zika virus.”
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