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Geo-statistical analysis of Culicoides spp. distribution and abundance in Sicily, Italy

Blanda, Valeria, Blanda, Marcellocalogero, La Russa, Francesco, Scimeca, Rossella, Scimeca, Salvatore, D’Agostino, Rosalia, Auteri, Michelangelo, Torina, Alessandra
Parasites & vectors 2018 v.11 no.1 pp. 78
Bluetongue virus, Culicoides imicola, Culicoides obsoletus, algebra, blacklight traps, bluetongue, farms, geographic information systems, geostatistics, insect vectors, monitoring, population density, population distribution, population size, risk, spatial distribution, vector competence, virus transmission, Italy, Sicily
BACKGROUND: Biting midges belonging to Culicoides imicola, Culicoides obsoletus complex and Culicoides pulicaris complex (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are increasingly implicated as vectors of bluetongue virus in Palaearctic regions. Culicoides obsoletus complex includes C. obsoletus (sensu stricto), C. scoticus, C. dewulfi and C. chiopterus. Culicoides pulicaris and C. lupicaris belong to the Culicoides pulicaris complex. The aim of this study was a geo-statistical analysis of the abundance and spatial distribution of Culicoides spp. involved in bluetongue virus transmission. As part of the national bluetongue surveillance plan 7081 catches were collected in 897 Sicilian farms from 2000 to 2013. METHODS: Onderstepoort-type blacklight traps were used for sample collection and each catch was analysed for the presence of Culicoides spp. and for the presence and abundance of Culicoides vector species (C. imicola, C. pulicaris / C. obsoletus complexes). A geo-statistical analysis was carried out monthly via the interpolation of measured values based on the Inverse Distance Weighted method, using a GIS tool. Raster maps were reclassified into seven classes according to the presence and abundance of Culicoides, in order to obtain suitable maps for Map Algebra operations. RESULTS: Sicilian provinces showing a very high abundance of Culicoides vector species were Messina (80% of the whole area), Palermo (20%) and Catania (12%). A total of 5654 farms fell within the very high risk area for bluetongue (21% of the 26,676 farms active in Sicily); of these, 3483 farms were in Messina, 1567 in Palermo and 604 in Catania. Culicoides imicola was prevalent in Palermo, C. pulicaris in Messina and C. obsoletus complex was very abundant over the whole island with the highest abundance value in Messina. CONCLUSIONS: Our study reports the results of a geo-statistical analysis concerning the abundance and spatial distribution of Culicoides spp. in Sicily throughout the fourteen year study. It provides useful decision support in the field of epidemiology, allowing the identification of areas to be monitored as bases for improved surveillance plans. Moreover, this knowledge can become a tool for the evaluation of virus transmission risks, especially if related to vector competence.