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Surveillance on the presence of West Nile virus in mosquito vectors in close proximity to previously affected horse populations
Kiss János - year 6
University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Supervisors: Dr. Petra Forgách, Dr. Orsolya Korbacska-Kutasi

Abstract:

The family Flaviviridae comprises more than 70 different pathogens, many of which are arthropod-borne, so-called arboviruses. In Hungary, so far, the presence of West Nile Virus (WNV), Usutu Virus and Tick-borne Encephalitis Virus has been reported. WNV is a virus of major public and animal health concern and is naturally maintained in an enzootic cycle between mosquitoes and birds. WNV can infect many species of mosquitoes, but the main vectors belong to the Culex genus, with migratory birds being the primary reservoirs. Climate change is causing migratory birds to introduce viruses from endemic areas into regions with sporadic outbreaks, extending the active period of mosquitoes and allowing the emergence of invasive species as well, which poses an additional epidemiological risk. Globalisation and other societal factors may also increase the risk of flavivirus infections, which could eventually lead to the emergence of further viruses of the genus Flavivirus in Europe and Hungary.

My research was carried out within the framework of a bilateral project between the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. During the study, I collected mosquitoes between July and October 2021 from three Hungarian stables, with horse populations previously affected by WNV outbreaks. Commercial BG-Sentinel 2™ traps were used to capture the mosquitoes, resulting in a total of 251 mosquito samples of 7 species. These were grouped into 62 homogeneous pools and subjected to flavivirus-specific RT-PCR for detection of viral RNA. Despite the continuous presence of WNV in Hungary in confirmed human, equine and avian cases since its first outbreak, the PCR results of all mosquito samples collected during this period turned out to be negative.

Based on the results of our own research and other similar studies, we can conclude that the negative results obtained are due to the limited sample size and representativity. To ensure that future studies are successful, a more organised approach to mosquito trapping could help by including more areas and increasing the frequency and intensity of sample collection. This also requires professional planning and implementation of sampling. Furthermore, the success of monitoring studies relies on continuous surveillance - not only of vectors but of reservoir and occasional host species as well, which should be carried out in collaboration with experts from other disciplines, in accordance with the "One Health" concept.



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