First evidence of Zika virus venereal transmission in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

<div><p> BACKGROUND Aedes aegypti is considered the main Zika virus (ZIKV) vector, and is thought to be responsible for the 2015-2016 outbreak in Brazil. Zika positive Ae. aegypti males collected in the field suggest that vertical and/or venereal transmission of ZIKV may occur. OBJECTIVES In this study, we aimed to demonstrate that venereal transmission of ZIKV by Ae. aegypti can occur under laboratory conditions. METHODS Ae. aegypti collected in the city of Manaus, confirmed as negative for Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya virus by reverse transcription real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) (AaM3V- strain), were reared under laboratory conditions and used for the experiments. The ZIKV used in this study was isolated from a patient presenting with symptoms; ZIKV was confirmed by RT-qPCR. Experiment 1: virgin male mosquitoes of AaM3V- strain were intrathoracically inoculated with a ZIKV suspension; four days after injection, they were transferred to a cage containing virgin females of AaM3V- strain and left to copulate for five days. Experiment 2: virgin female mosquitoes of AaM3V- strain were orally infected with a ZIKV suspension by blood feeding membrane assay; nine days after blood feeding, they were placed in cages with Ae. aegypti AaM3V- virgin males and left to copulate for four days. After copulation, all mosquitoes were individually evaluated for viral infection by RT-qPCR. FINDINGS The mean infection rate in Experiment 1 and Experiment 2 was 45% and 35%, respectively. In both experiments, cycle threshold values ranged from 13 to 35, indicating the presence of viral genomes. MAIN CONCLUSION Ae. aegypti males intrathoracically inoculated with a ZIKV suspension are infected and can transmit the virus to uninfected females by mating. Moreover, Ae. aegypti females orally infected with a ZIKV suspension can transmit the virus to uninfected males by copulation. This study shows that ZIKV infection of Ae. aegypti mosquitoes occurs not only during blood feeding, but also during copulation.</p></div>