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Keywords:

  • bloodmeal;
  • Culex;
  • host identification;
  • Luminex;
  • mosquito

Abstract

For vectorborne infections, host selection by bloodfeeding arthropods dictates the interaction between host and pathogen. Because Culex mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus (WNV) feed both on mammalian and avian hosts with varying competence, understanding the bloodfeeding patterns of these mosquitoes is important for understanding the transmission dynamics of WNV. Herein, we describe a new microsphere-based assay using Luminex xMAP® technology to rapidly identify 15 common hosts of Culex mosquitoes at our California study sites. The assay was verified with over 100 known vertebrate species samples and was used in conjunction with DNA sequencing to identify over 125 avian and mammalian host species from unknown Culex bloodmeals, more quickly and with less expense than sequencing alone. In addition, with multiplexed labelled probes, this microsphere array identified mixed bloodmeals that were difficult to discern with traditional sequencing. The microsphere set was easily expanded or reduced according to host range in a specific area, and this assay has made it possible to rapidly screen thousands of Culex spp. bloodmeals to extend our understanding of WNV transmission patterns.