The vector competence of Culex tarsalis Coquillett for the BFS1703 strain of western equine encephalomyelitis virus (WEEV) changed significantly as a function of time after infection, mosquito genotype, and infectious virus dose. After ingesting a high virus dose (5 log10 plaque-forming units [PFU]/0.1 ml), females of the susceptible high virus producer (HVP) strain rapidly amplified virus, developed a disseminated infection, and efficiently transmitted WEEV by 4 days postinfection (dpi). The quantity of virus expectorated peaked at 4 dpi (mean 3.4 log10 PFU), and the percentage of females transmitting per os peaked at 7 dpi (80%); both measures of transmission subsequently decreased to low levels throughout the remainder of infected life. HVP females imbibing a low virus dose (3 log10 PFU/0.1 ml) were infected less frequently and took longer to amplify virus to levels recorded for the high virus dose group and did not transmit virus efficiently, thereby indicating midgut infection and escape barriers were dose and time dependent. These data emphasized the importance of elevated avian viremias in Cx. tarsalis vector competence. Females from the WEEV-resistant (WR) strain and two wild-type strains from Kern and Riverside counties were significantly less susceptible to infection at both high and low doses than was the HVP strain. Overall, females with a high virus titer more frequently had a disseminated infection, but there did not seem to be a distinct threshold demarcating this relationship. In marked contrast, all infected females transmitting virus had body titers >4.3 log10 PFU, and most had titers >4.8 log10 PFU. These data indicated that not all females with a disseminated infection transmitted virus because of the presence of one or more salivary gland barriers.
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Vol. 22 • No. 2