Culicoides Biting Midges - Underestimated Vectors for Arboviruses of Public Health and Veterinary Importance
Culicoides biting midges, small hematophagous dipterans, are the demonstrated or putative vectors of multiple arboviruses of veterinary and public health importance. Despite its relevance in disease spread, the ceratopogonid genus Culicoides is still a largely neglected group of species, predominantly because the major human-affecting arboviruses are considered to be transmitted by mosquitoes. However, when a pathogen is detected in a certain vector species, a thorough search for further vectors often remains undone and, therefore, the relevant vector species may remain unknown. Furthermore, for many hematophagous arthropods, true vector competence is often merely suspected and not experimentally proven. Therefore, we aim to illuminate the general impact of Culicoides biting midges and to summarize the knowledge about biting midge-borne disease agents using the order Bunyavirales, the largest and most diverse group of RNA viruses, as an example. When considering only viruses evidentially transmitted by Culicoides midges, the Simbu serogroup (genus Orthobunyavirus) is presumably the most important group within the virus order. Its members are of great veterinary importance, as a variety of simbuviruses, e.g., the species Akabane orthobunyavirus or Schmallenberg orthobunyavirus, induces severe congenital infections in pregnant animals. The major zoonotic representative of this serogroup occurs in South and Central America and causes the so-called Oropouche fever, an acute febrile illness in humans.