Mosquito-borne pathogens contribute significantly to the global burden of infectious diseases and are a continuing public health concern in the United States. Blood feeding by vector mosquitoes is a critical step in the transmission of human pathogens. Continuous surveillance of mosquito feeding patterns, especially in major population centers, is necessary for sustainable, effective control strategies. To better understand female feeding habits in Harris County, TX, we trapped mosquitoes from various locations, distributed among urban and semi-urban environments. Bloodmeal hosts were determined using a cytochrome C oxidase I DNA barcoding strategy. We identified a diverse array of vertebrate hosts with a high degree of avian host utilization, most surprisingly from anthropophilic species like Aedes aegypti (L.). We also detected sequences from two different vertebrate hosts in about half of specimens examined, suggesting that multiple bloodmeals had been acquired in the same feeding cycle by a sizable fraction of females in both urban and semi-urban locations. The high proportion of feeding on domestic chickens may indicate that a significant number of homeowners are rearing chickens within close proximity to study trap sites. As non-amplifying hosts, chickens may have a diluting effect on West Nile virus, as well as a zooprophylactic effect in their immediate vicinities. Ultimately, spatial and temporal host utilization patterns add insight into potential disease transmission dynamics, thereby informing vector control strategies in Harris County and other metropolitan areas.
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Vol. 57 • No. 6