Evaluation of blowfly larvae (Diptera: Calliphoridae) as possible reservoirs and mechanical vectors of African swine fever virus
In 2014, highly virulent African swine fever virus (ASFV) was introduced into the Baltic States and Poland, with new cases being reported almost every week from wild boar and also from domestic pigs. Contrary to initial predictions that the disease would either die out due to the high virulence of the virus strain or spread rapidly in westerly direction, the infection became endemic and spread slowly. The unexpected disease epidemiology led to the hypothesis that hitherto unconsidered factors might contribute to virus persistence and dispersal. To check whether arthropod species feeding and developing on infected carcasses might be involved, larvae of two commonly found blowfly species, Lucilia sericata and Calliphora vicina, were experimentally bred on ASFV-infected spleen tissue. After different time intervals, developing larvae and pupae were tested for infectious virus and viral DNA. By qPCR, contamination of the blowfly larvae and pupae with ASFV-DNA could be demonstrated even after several washing steps, proving the uptake of virus during feeding in the larval stage. However, infectious virus could never be isolated. By contrast, the larvae appeared to have inactivated ASFV in the offered tissue, which might be explained by the known anti-biotic effect of salivary secretions. It is concluded that immature blowfly stages do not play a relevant role as reservoirs or mechanical vectors of ASFV.
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