Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) transmission in northern Australia has, in the past, been facilitated by Culex annulirostris Skuse feeding on domestic pigs, the primary amplifying hosts of the virus. To further characterize mosquito feeding behavior in northern Australia, 1,128 bloodmeals from Cx. annulirostris were analyzed using a double-antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Overall, Cx. annulirostris obtained >94% of blood meals from mammals, comprising marsupials (37%), pigs (20%), dogs (16%), and cows (11%), although the proportion feeding on each of these host types varied between study locations. Where JEV activity was detected, feeding rates on pigs were relatively high. At the location that yielded the first Australian mainland isolate of JEV from mosquitoes, feral pigs (in the absence of domestic pigs) accounted for 82% of bloodmeals identified, representing the first occasion that feeding on feral pigs has been associated with JEV transmission in Australia. Interestingly, <3% of Cx. annulirostris had fed on pigs at locations on Badu Island where JEV was detected in multiple pools of mosquitoes in a concurrent study. This suggests that either alternative hosts, such as birds, which comprised 21% of blood meals identified, or infected mosquitoes immigrating from areas where domestic pigs are housed, may have contributed to transmission at this location. Because Cx. annulirostris is both an opportunistic feeder and the primary JEV vector in the region, environmental characteristics and host presence can determine JEV transmission dynamics in northern Australia.
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Vol. 49 • No. 2