Autochthonous and invasive mosquitoes of Catalonia as vectors of zoonotic arboviruses

On Friday July 22, 2016 at 11: 00h in the morning in the Hall of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the UAB the thesis dissertation Marco Brustolin will take place. The thesis entitled "Autochthonous and invasive mosquitoes of Catalonia as vectors of zoonotic arboviruses" was performed under the supervision of researchers from IRTA-CReSA:  Dr. Nuria Busquets and Dr. Nitu Pagès.

Mosquito-borne diseases (MBDs) are an increasing global public health concern. The increase of international human activities and the global warming, have allowed the rapid spread and establishment of invasive mosquito species in new geographical areas. Moreover, the globalization also cause the introduction of exotic arboviruses in naïve areas where the mosquito vector is present, enhancing MBDs outbreaks.

The outbreaks of MBDs, especially those caused by arbovirus like Dengue virus (DENV), Zika virus (ZIKV), Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) or West Nile virus (WNV), have severe consequences for public and/or veterinary health. The economic losses linked to the zoonotic MBDs can severely compromise the economy of the affected country. This is particularly relevant in the developing countries, where diseases such as Rift Valley fever can provoke the death of a huge number of domestic and wild animals. For these reasons a deep knowledge of which mosquito species are present in a country and which of them are competent vectors of different pathogen agents is needed in order to set up appropriate surveillance programs and entomological control strategies.

Aedes albopictus, tiger mosquito.

The first part of the thesis gives a general overview on the importance of MBDs, the role of the vectors and the concept of vector competence.  Descriptions of WNV and RVFV are also provided. Afterwards, the objectives of the thesis are exposed. So far, the population dynamics and the genetic structure of invasive Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, were unknown in Spain. Moreover, no studies on the vector competence of Spanish populations of Culex pipiens and Ae. albopictus for zoonotic arboviruses (WNV and RVFV) have been performed until now. The aim of the present thesis is to clarify all these points.

The second part is formed by three original studies aimed at answering these points.

In the first study, the genetic structure of Ae. albopictus in Spain has been analyzed with the use of different genetic tools. Based on the results obtained, two different hypotheses have been postulated to explain the introduction and the spread of this species across the country. Moreover, a global analysis about the worldwide spread of Ae. albopictus has been performed. The results of both analyses confirmed the importance of human activities for the local and global dispersion of Ae. albopictus.

Entomology laboratory within IRTA-CReSA’s biosafety level 3 facility.


The second and third studies, demonstrated how Spanish Cx. pipiens and Ae. albopictus are competent vectors for WNV and RVFV. In both studies the importance of using variable cycling temperature during the extrinsic period of incubation have been verified. The results suggested that variable cycling temperature allows to estimate a more realistic vector competence. Moreover, different approaches have been used for the detection of viral particles in the saliva of infected mosquitoes.

These studies have been funded, in part, by: RecerCaixa program, AGL2013-47257-P Spanish government project and EU project  FP7-613996 VMERGE.

The following paper has been published in the scientific journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology:

Brustolin M, Talavera S, Santamaria C, Rivas R, Pujol N, Aranda C, Marques E, Valle M, Verdun M, Pages N, Busquets N. Culex pipiens and Stegomyia albopicta (= Aedes albopictus) populations as vectors for lineage 1 and 2 West Nile virus in Europe. Med Vet Entomol. 2016 Feb 18. doi: 10.1111/mve.12164.

To contact with the directors of this thesis:

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

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

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 i Alimentació (DARP, Department of Agriculture) of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia).

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