Comparison of vector competence of Aedes vexans Green River and Culex pipiens biotype pipiens for West Nile virus lineages 1 and 2
West Nile virus (WNV), a zoonotic arbovirus, has recently established an autochthonous transmission cycle in Germany. In dead‐end hosts like humans and horses the WNV infection may cause severe symptoms in the central nervous system. In nature, WNV is maintained in an enzootic transmission cycle between birds and ornithophilic mosquitoes. Bridge vector species, such as members of the Culex pipiens complex and Aedes spp., also widely distributed in Germany, might transmit WNV to other vertebrate host species. This study determined and compared the vector competence of field‐collected northern‐German Cx. pipiens biotype pipiens and laboratory‐reared Ae. vexans Green River (GR) for WNV lineage 1 (strain: Magpie/Italy/203204) and WNV lineage 2 (strain: “Austria”) under temperatures typical for northern Germany in spring/summer and autumn. For assessment of vector competence, 7‐ to 14‐day‐old female mosquitoes were offered a WNV containing blood meal via Hemotek membrane feeding system or cotton‐stick feeding. After incubation at 18°C respectively 24°C for 14 days engorged female mosquitoes were salivated and dissected for determination of infection, dissemination and transmission rates by reverse transcriptase quantitative real‐time PCR (RT‐qPCR). Both Ae. vexans GR and Cx. pipiens biotype pipiens were infected with both tested WNV strains and tested 14 days post‐inoculation. Disseminated infections were detected only in Ae. vexans GR incubated at 18°C and in Cx. pipiens pipiens incubated at 24°C after infection with WNV lineage 1. Transmission of WNV lineage 1 was detected in Cx. pipiens pipiens incubated at 24°C. These results indicate that Cx. pipiens pipiens from Northern Germany may be involved in the transmission of WNV, also to dead‐end hosts like humans and horses.