Date of this Version
J. Med. Entomol. 48(3): 656-668 (2011); DOI: 10.1603/ME10167
In 2006-2007, stable flies, Stomoxys calcitrans (L.) (Diptera: Muscidae), were suspected of being enzootic vectors of West Nile virus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus, WNV) during a die-off of American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos Gmelin) (Pelecanidae) in Montana, USA. WNV-positive stable flies were observed feeding en masse on incapacitated, WNV-positive pelicans, arousing suspicions that the flies could have been involved in WNV transmission among pelicans, and perhaps to livestock and humans. We assessed biological transmission by infecting stable flies intrathoracically with WNV and testing them at 2-d intervals over 20 d. Infectious WNV was detected in fly bodies in decreasing amounts over time for only the first 6 d post infection, an indication that WNV did not replicate within fly tissues and that stable flies cannot biologically transmit WNV. We assessed mechanical transmission using a novel technique. Specifically, we fed WNV-infected blood to individual flies by using a cotton swab (i.e., artificial donor), and at intervals of 1 min-24 h, we allowed flies to refeed on a different swab saturated with WNV-negative blood (i.e., artificial recipient). Flies mechanically transmitted viable WNV from donor to recipient swabs for up to 6 h post infection, with the majority of the transmission events occurring within the first hour. Flies mechanically transmitted WNV RNA to recipient swabs for up to 24 h, mostly within the first 6 h. Given its predilection to feed multiple times when disturbed, these findings support the possibility that the stable fly could mechanically transmit WNV.