The genus Culicoides in the Iberian Peninsula: study of the biology of the potential vectors of Bluetongue and Scmallenberg virus

Last Tuesday,  February the 9th 2016, Sandra Talavera thesis dissertarion took place in the Sala de Graus of the UAB Veterinary Faculty. The thesis entitled The genus Culicoides in the Iberian Peninsula: study of the biolbogy of the potential vectors of Bluetongue and Scmallenberg virus was directed by Dr. Nonito Pagès.

Around 1,400 species of biting midges of the genus Culicoides Latreille, 1809 (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), have beendescribed in the world, some of these arewell known transmitters of protozoa, filarial worms and viruses that affect humans and domestic and/or wild animals. The Bluetongue virus (BTV) and the recently emerged Schmallenberg virus (SBV) are responsible of important infectious, non-contagious, insect-borne viral diseases found in domestic and wild ruminants and transmitted by Culicoides spp.

Wing pattern pictures of Culicoides species

Two research axes are distinguished in the doctoral thesis to improve our comprehension on the epidemiology of Bluetongue (BT) and Schmallenberg (SB) diseases. The first research axe provides an improvement on the knowledge of the diversity, morphology and distributionof Culicoides species in the Iberian Peninsula. Data derived from morphology and sequencing allowed to detect the presence of 26 species not recorded previously   in the surveillance area. Two eco-zones were detected in the region; the northern had species with typical northern Palaearctic European distribution whereas the southern one had species with typical southern Palaearctic distribution. A concise analysis of morphological traits and DNA sequencing was performed on specimens of the Pulicaris and Punctatus groups. Results revealed the presence of two new species in the subgenus Culicoides: C. cryptipulicaris and C. quasipulicaris, both species phylogenetically closely related to other Culicoides acting as diseases-vectors in Europe. The second research axe aimed at characterizing Culicoides midge communities in natural ecosystems inhabited by different wild ruminants along the Iberian Peninsula. The results showed that at a local scale, the presence of major BTV and SBV vector species in areas with wild ruminants was coincident with that of the nearest sentinel farms. Data suggested certain species could play a prominent role as bridge vectors for different pathogens between wild and domestic ruminants. Results support the hypothesis that wild ruminants act as reservoir for BT and SB, and could eventually be involved in the reintroduction of such diseases into livestock farms. In this context, it is essential to define precisely the bloodfeeding behaviour of Culicoides communities in contact with wild ruminants. Bloodmeal origin (host donor) was successfully determined in 114 out of 224 blood engorged females collected in natural ecosystems. The major BTV and SBV vector species were detected among the 14 Culicoides species with a recent bloodmeal. Culicoides fed more frequently on mammals (91.1%) than on birds (8.9%). Among hosts, red deer was the most frequent host biten (66.7%), followed by human (13%) and fallow deer (6.1%).

Relative abundance of the main vector species of BTV and SBV in the sampling sites

To contact Dra. Sandra Talavera

Dra. Sandra Talavera
Arbovirus and arthropode vectors line (ARTROPOVIR) researcher from the Exotic Diseases Subprogram in IRTA-CReSA.
E-mail: sandra.talavera@irta.cat 
Phone: +34 93 467 40 40
Campus UAB, Edifici CReSA s/n,  08193  Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès) Spain

These studies have been funded by DARP: Bluetongue entomological surveillance programme in Catalonia, project INIA FAU 2008-0019, EU grant GOCE-2003-010284 EDENext

About IRTA:

IRTA is a research institute devoted to R+D+I in a variety of agri-food areas, such as vegetal production, animal production, food industries, environment and global change, and agri-food economy. The transfer of scientific advances contribute to the modernization, competitiveness and sustainable development of agriculture, food and aquaculture sectors, the supply of healthy and quality foods for consumers and, consequently, improving the welfare of the population. IRTA is assigned to the Departament d’Agricultura, Ramaderia, Pesca, Alimentació i Medi Natural (DAAM, Department of Agriculture) of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia).

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