Multiple isolates of an alphaviruses within the western equine encephalomyelitis-serocomplex that were related closely to Ft. Morgan and its variant Buggy Creek virus were made from swallow bugs, Oeciacus vicarius Horvath (Hemiptera: Cimicidae), collected from cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) nests at the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Sacramento County, CA, during the summers of 2005 and 2006. This virus (hereafter Stone Lakes virus, family Togaviridae, genus Alphavirus, STLV) was the first record of this viral group west of the Continental Divide. STLV replicated well in Vero and other vertebrate cell cultures but failed to replicate in C6/36 cells or infect Culex tarsalis Coquillett mosquitoes. STLV failed to produce elevated viremias in adult chickens or house sparrows and was weakly immunogenic. In addition, STLV was not isolated from cliff swallow nestlings nor was antibody detected in adults collected at mist nets. We suggest that STL and related swallow bug viruses may be primarily infections of cimicids that are maintained and amplified either by vertical or nonviremic transmission and that cliff swallows may primarily be important as a bloodmeal source for the bugs rather than as an amplification host for the viruses.
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