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Primary blood-hosts of mosquitoes are influenced by social and ecological conditions in a complex urban landscape

Goodman, Heather, Egizi, Andrea, Fonseca, Dina M., Leisnham, Paul T., LaDeau, Shannon L.
Parasites & vectors 2018 v.11 no.1 pp. 218
Aedes albopictus, Culex, Rattus norvegicus, birds, blood, blood meal, environmental exposure, feeding methods, hosts, humans, income, infrastructure, insect vectors, landscapes, rats, risk, socioeconomic status, socioeconomics, urban areas, Maryland
BACKGROUND: Temperate urban landscapes support persistent and growing populations of Culex and Aedes mosquito vectors. Large urban mosquito populations can represent a significant risk for transmission of emergent arboviral infection. However, even large mosquito populations are only a risk to the animals they bite. The purpose of this study is to identify and assess spatial patterns of host-use in a temperate urban landscape with heterogeneous socio-economic and ecological conditions. RESULTS: Mosquito blood meals were collected from neighborhoods categorized along a socio-economic gradient in Baltimore, MD, USA. Blood meal hosts were identified for two Aedes (Ae. albopictus and Ae. japonicus) and three Culex (Cx. pipiens, Cx. restuans and Cx. salinarius) species. The brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) was the most frequently detected host in both Aedes species and Cx. salinarius. Human biting was evident in Aedes and Culex species and the proportion of human blood meals from Ae. albopictus varied significantly with neighborhood socio-economic status. Aedes albopictus was most likely to feed on human blood hosts (at 50%) in residential blocks categorized as having income above the city median, although there were still more total human bites detected from lower income blocks where Ae. albopictus was more abundant. Birds were the most frequently detected Culex blood hosts but were absent from all Aedes sampled. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights fine-scale variation in host-use by medically important mosquito vectors and specifically investigates blood meal composition at spatial scales relevant to urban mosquito dispersal and human exposure. Further, the work emphasizes the importance of neighborhood economics and infrastructure management in shaping both the relative abundance of vectors and local blood feeding strategies. The invasive brown rat was an important blood source across vector species and neighborhoods in Baltimore. We show that social and economic conditions can be important predictors of transmission potential in urban landscapes and identify important questions about the role of rodents in supporting urban mosquito populations.