Antoine Boullis, Nadège Cordel, Cécile Herrmann-Storck and Anubis Vega-Rúa
The pandemic emergence of several mosquito-borne viruses highlights the need to understand the different ways in which they can be transmitted by vectors to human hosts. In this study, we evaluated the propensity of Aedes aegypti to transmit mechanically Zika virus (ZIKV) using an experimental design. Mosquitoes were allowed to feed on ZIKV-infected blood and were then rapidly transferred to feed on ZIKV-free blood until they finished their meal. The uninfected blood meals, the mosquito abdomens, as well as the mouthparts dissected from fully and partially engorged mosquitoes were analyzed using RT-qPCR and/or virus titration. All the fully engorged mosquito abdomens were ZIKV-infected, whereas their mouthparts were all ZIKV-negative. Nonetheless, one of the partially engorged mosquitoes carried infectious particles on mouthparts. No infectious virus was found in the receiver blood meals, while viral RNA was detected in 9% of the samples (2/22). Thus, mechanical transmission of ZIKV may sporadically occur via Ae. aegypti bite. However, as the number of virions detected on mouthparts (2 particles) is not sufficient to induce infection in a naïve host, our results indicate that mechanical transmission does not impact ZIKV epidemiology.