West Nile Virus Mosquito Vectors (Diptera: Culicidae) in Germany
In 2018, West Nile virus (WNV) broke out for the first time in Germany, with continuation of the epidemic in 2019, involving birds, horses and humans. To identify vectors and characterize the virus, mosquitoes were collected in both years in zoological gardens and on a horse meadow immediately following the diagnosis of disease cases in birds and horses. Mosquitoes were identified and screened for WNV by qRT-PCR, with virus-positive samples being sequenced for the viral envelope protein gene. While no positive mosquitoes were found in 2018, seven mosquito pools tested positive for WNV in 2019 in the Tierpark (Wildlife Park) Berlin. The pools consisted of Cx. pipiens biotype pipiens (n = 5), and a mixture of Cx. p. biotype pipiens and Cx. p. biotype molestus (n = 2), or hybrids of these, and were collected between 13 August and 24 September 2019. The virus strain turned out to be nearly identical to two WNV strains isolated from birds diseased in 2018 in eastern Germany. The findings represent the first demonstration of WNV in mosquitoes in Germany and include the possibility of local overwintering of the virus.