The role of Culex pipiens L. (Diptera: Culicidae) in virus transmission in Europe

Over the past three decades, a range of mosquito-borne viruses that threaten public and veterinary health have emerged or re-emerged in Europe. Mosquito surveillance activities have highlighted the Culex pipiens species complex as being critical for the maintenance of a number of these viruses. This species complex contains morphologically similar forms that exhibit variation in phenotypes that can influence the probability of virus transmission. Critical amongst these is the choice of host on which to feed, with different forms showing different feeding preferences. This influences the ability of the mosquito to vector viruses and facilitate transmission of viruses to humans and domestic animals. Biases towards blood-feeding on avian or mammalian hosts have been demonstrated for different Cx. pipiens ecoforms and emerging evidence of hybrid populations across Europe adds another level of complexity to virus transmission. A range of molecular methods based on DNA have been developed to enable discrimination between morphologically indistinguishable forms, although this remains an active area of research. This review provides a comprehensive overview of developments in the understanding of the ecology, behaviour and genetics of Cx. pipiens in Europe, and how this influences arbovirus transmission.

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