Little is known of the interactions between insect-only flaviviruses and other arboviruses in their mosquito hosts, or the potential public health significance of these associations. The specific aims of this study were to describe the geographic distribution, prevalence, and seasonal infection rates of Culex flavivirus (CxFV) and West Nile virus (WNV) in Culex quinquefasciatus Say in the Southeastern United States, investigate the potential association between CxFV and WNV prevalence in Cx. quinquefasciatus and describe the phylogenetic relationship among CxFV and WNV isolates from the Southeastern United States and around the world. Using ArboNET records, 11 locations were selected across Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana that represented a range of WNV human case incidence levels. Cx. quinquefasciatus were trapped weekly throughout the summer of 2009 and pools were screened for flavivirus RNA by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Cx. quinquefasciatus from Georgia had significantly higher CxFV infection rates than either Mississippi or Louisiana. CxFV was not detected in Mississippi after July, and no CxFV was detected in Cx. quinquefasciatus in Louisiana. In Georgia, CxFV infection rates were variable between and within counties and over time. WNV infection rates were not significantly different across states or months, and WNV sequences from all three states were identical to each other in the envelope and NS5 gene regions. Phylogenetically, NS5 and E gene sequences from Georgia CxFV isolates clustered with CxFV from Japan, Iowa, and Texas. Multiple CxFV genetic variants were found circulating simultaneously in Georgia. No evidence was found supporting an association between WNV and CxFV infection prevalence in Cx. quinquefasciatus.
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Vol. 49 • No. 1