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Mosquitoes as a Potential Vector of Ranavirus Transmission in Terrestrial Turtles

Steven J. A. Kimble, Ajit K. Karna, April J. Johnson, Jason T. Hoverman, Rod N. Williams
EcoHealth 2015 v.12 no.2 pp. 334-338
Aedes, DNA, Ranavirus, amphibians, fish, herpetofauna, hosts, mortality, pathogens, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, turtles, virus transmission, viruses, Indiana
Ranaviruses are significant pathogens of amphibians, reptiles, and fishes, contributing to mass mortality events worldwide. Despite an increasing focus on ranavirus ecology, our understanding of ranavirus transmission, especially among reptilian hosts, remains limited. For example, experimental evidence for oral transmission of the virus in chelonians is mixed. Consequently, vector-borne transmission has been hypothesized in terrestrial turtle species. To test this hypothesis, mosquitoes captured during a 2012/2013 ranavirus outbreak in box turtles from southwestern Indiana were pooled by genus and tested for ranavirus DNA using qPCR. Two of 30 pools tested positive for ranavirus. Additionally, an individual Aedes sp. mosquito observed engorging on a box turtle also tested positive for ranavirus. Although our approach does not rule out the possibility that the sequenced ranavirus was simply from virus in bloodmeal, it does suggests that mosquitoes may be involved in virus transmission as a mechanical or biological vector among ectothermic vertebrates. While additional studies are needed to elucidate the exact role of mosquitoes in ranavirus ecology, our study suggests that a greater focus on vector-borne transmission may be necessary to fully understand ranaviral disease dynamics in herpetofauna.