Two western equine encephalomyelitis virus (WEEV) strains have been isolated in China. Our previous studies have verified that the mosquito Culex pipiens pallens Coquillett (Diptera: Culicidae) infected with WEEV was capable of transmitting this arbovirus, but it was not clear how the sequential multiplication and spread of virus occurred within the mosquito. In this study, we observed the distribution of WEEV antigen in orally-infected Cx. p. pallens by immunohistochemistry in order to better understand the initial infection, dissemination, and transmission of WEEV in the potential vector. Orally-infected WEEV dissemination varied within the different tissues of Cx. p. pallens, with virus antigen consistently observed in the salivary glands, foregut, midgut epithelial cells, Malpighian tubules, hindgut, and ovarian follicles of some individuals after various days of extrinsic incubation. We suggest that Cx. p. pallens, the potential vector of WEEV, has the ability to harbor the virus through the alimentary system, and the midgut epithelial cell may be the initial site of WEEV replication after ingestion of a viremic blood meal.
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