Traces of Zika Found in Asian tiger mosquito in Brazil

April 14, 2017
Transmission electron microscope image of negative-stained, Fortaleza-strain Zika virus (red), isolated from a microcephaly case in Brazil. The virus is associated with cellular membranes in the center. Credit: NIAID

In a recent test of Asian tiger mosquitoes collected in Brazil, researchers found fragments of Zika virus RNA, raising concerns that it may be carried by species other than Zika's known primary vector, the yellow fever mosquito.

The research does not conclude that the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) can transmit Zika to humans, but it highlights the need for deeper research into additional potential vectors for the virus that has rapidly spread through the Americas since its initial outbreak in 2015, says Chelsea Smartt, Ph.D., associate professor at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory at the University of Florida and lead author on the study to be published this week in the Entomological Society of America's Journal of Medical Entomology.

"Our results mean that Aedes albopictus may have a role in Zika virus transmission and should be of concern to public health," Smartt says. "This mosquito is found worldwide, has a wide range of hosts and has adapted to colder climates. The role of this mosquito in Zika virus transmission needs to be assessed."

Smartt and an international team of researchers collected the from homes in Brazil and hatched eggs from those mosquitoes in the lab. Male Ae. albopictus mosquitoes that hatched tested positive for Zika RNA (ribonucleic acid), meaning that females collected in the field had encountered Zika and passed fragments of the virus to their offspring. Whether that means Ae. albopictus can "vertically transmit" live Zika virus to its offspring is still unclear. "Detecting Zika RNA fragments without finding live Zika virus suggests that either the female parent was not itself infected with live Zika virus or it was not able to transfer live Zika virus to her eggs," Smartt says.

Thus far, the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) is the species known to be the primary transmitter of Zika to humans, though researchers suspect other species may be involved. However, Smartt says "extensive research still needs to be done" to confirm whether the Asian tiger mosquito is also a culprit.

Meanwhile, though, the current findings emphasize the need for abundant caution among insect scientists and medical researchers, as well. "It is important to test all mosquitoes collected in areas with a high number of Zika cases for Zika RNA, and if the mosquitoes are positive for Zika RNA they must be tested for live Zika prior to transport or use in a laboratory for experiments."

Explore further: Florida officials: Aggressive efforts to stop Zika continue

More information: "Evidence of Zika Virus RNA Fragments in Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) Field-Collected Eggs From Camaçari, Bahia, Brazil," Journal of Medical Entomology. DOI: 10.1093/jme/tjx058

Related Stories

Florida officials: Aggressive efforts to stop Zika continue

March 27, 2017
Florida officials say they're continuing aggressive efforts to stop the spread of the Zika virus.

Brazil scientists: Culex mosquito not transmitting Zika

September 6, 2016
Brazilian researchers say they have concluded that the common Culex mosquito is not transmitting Zika, the rapidly spreading virus that has been linked to severe birth defects.

Culex mosquitoes do not transmit Zika virus, study finds

September 22, 2016
A Biosecurity Research Institute study has found important results in the fight against Zika virus: Culex mosquitoes do not appear to transmit Zika virus.

Zika virus research aims to control, fight mosquitoes

July 1, 2016
Kansas State University is helping the fight against Zika virus through mosquito research.

Brazil confirms mosquito as Zika vector

May 23, 2016
Brazilian scientists said Monday they have found the first hard evidence the Zika virus blamed for causing brain damage in hundreds of babies is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Recommended for you

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

Portable 3-D scanner assesses patients with elephantiasis

October 17, 2017
An estimated 120 million people worldwide are infected with lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic, mosquito-borne disease that can cause major swelling and deformity of the legs, a condition known as elephantiasis. Health-care ...

New tools to combat kidney fibrosis

October 16, 2017
Interstitial fibrosis – excessive tissue scarring – contributes to chronic kidney disease, which is increasing in prevalence in the United States.

How hepatitis C hides in the body

October 13, 2017
The Hepatitis C (HCV) virus is a sly enemy to have in one's body. Not only does it manage to make itself invisible to the immune system by breaking down communication between the immune cells, it also builds secret virus ...

Largest study yet of malaria in Africa shows historical rates of infection

October 12, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with members from the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the University of Oxford and the University of KwaZulu-Natal has conducted the largest-ever study of the history of malaria ...

Promising new target for treatment of psoriasis is safe, study shows

October 11, 2017
A protein known to play a significant role in the development of psoriasis can be prevented from functioning without posing a risk to patients, scientists at King's College London have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.