Host Diversity and West Nile Virus Transmission in the United States

Increased host diversity has been proposed to decrease human risk for infection with certain zoonotic diseases. This occurs by diversion of vector feeding away from the most competent hosts onto less competent ones. A basic requirement for this ‘dilution effect’ is that the vector does not preferentially feeds on any particular host. We examined whether Culex pipiens, an important vector for West Nile virus, preferentially feeds on certain bird species in semi-natural choice experiments and by comparing the bird species composition in the bloodmeals of wild-caught mosquitoes to the composition of the bird community. Using a dynamic transmission model, we determined that preferential feeding is a key driver in West Nile virus transmission.

Everglades Arbovirus Project

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This project seeks to determine the diversity and abundance of mosquitoes and arboviruses in the regions in and around Everglades National Park, their relationships with the major plant communities and their potential impact on public health. A predictive model will be developed to explain the diversity, distribution and dynamics of arboviruses based upon landscape features, hydrology and mosquito biology. 

The surveillance will provide information about the association of viral types with different mosquito species, data on the distribution and density of these vectors and potential disease risk to humans and/or wildlife within and around the park. It will also provide baseline data for future assessment of the effects of wetland restoration efforts and regional climate change upon arthropod-borne disease risk.