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Journal of Medical Entomology




Microfilariae (MF) are the immature stages of filarial nematode parasites and inhabit the blood and dermis of all classes of vertebrates, except fish. Concurrent ingestion of MF and arboviruses by mosquitoes can enhance mosquito transmission of virus compared to when virus is ingested alone. Shortly after being ingested, MF penetrate the mosquito’s midgut and may introduce virus into the mosquito’s hemocoel, creating a disseminated viral infection much sooner than normal. This phenomenon is known as microfilarial enhancement. Both American Robins and Common Grackles harbor MF—that is, Eufilaria sp. and Chandlerella quiscali von Linstow (Spirurida: Onchocercidae), respectively. We compared infection and dissemination rates in Culex pipiens L. mosquitoes that fed on birds with and without MF infections that had been infected with West Nile virus (WNV). At moderate viremias, about 107 plaque-forming units (pfu)/ml of blood, there were no differences in infection or dissemination rates among mosquitoes that ingested viremic blood from a bird with or without microfilaremia. At high viremias, >108.5 pfu/ml, mosquitoes feeding on a microfilaremic Grackle with concurrent viremia had significantly higher infection and dissemination rates than mosquitoes fed on viremic Grackles without microfilaremia. Microfilarial enhancement depends on the specific virus, MF, and mosquito species examined. How virus is introduced into the hemocoel by MF differs between the avian/WNV systems described here (i.e., leakage) and various arboviruses with MF of the human filarid, Brugia malayi (Brug) (Spirurida: Onchocercidae) (i.e., cotransport). Additional studies are needed to determine if other avian species and their MF are involved in the microfilarial enhancement of WNV in nature.



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This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Medical Entomology following peer review. The version of record Vaughan, Jefferson A., et al. “Pre-Existing Microfilarial Infections of American Robins (Passeriformes: Turdidae) and Common Grackles (Passeriformes: Icteridae) Have Limited Impact on Enhancing Dissemination of West Nile Virus in Culex Pipiens Mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae).” Journal of Medical Entomology, vol. 58, no. 3, May 2021, pp. 1389–97. is available online at:

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