Portugal is a southern European country that displays favorable ecological conditions for the establishment of West Nile virus (WNV) transmission cycles. Competent mosquito vector species are present throughout the country. Among the species with reported cases of WNV isolation in Portugal, Culex pipiens is the most ubiquitous and abundant mosquito. This species exhibits two biological forms with differences in host preferences. The molestus form has a greater tendency to feed upon humans and other mammals whereas the pipiens form prefers avian hosts. In northern latitudes, both forms are physically separated, with molestus occupying underground habitats and pipiens being found aboveground. However, the warmer climatic conditions of southern regions such as Portugal may favor the sympatric occurrence of both forms hence promoting interform hybridization. Genetic introgression between molestus and pipiens forms may result in a higher propensity for admixed populations to serve as bridge-vectors of WNV between humans and birds. Here we revise our present knowledge on the distribution, role in WNV transmission and genetic structure of the Cx. pipiens complex in continental Portugal. We focus on recent findings of sympatric molestus and pipiens populations that display considerable levels of hybridization and discuss the epidemiological repercussions of this occurrence.
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