Transstadial Transmission and Replication Kinetics of West Nile Virus Lineage 1 in Laboratory Reared Ixodes ricinus Ticks
West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne agent that has also been isolated from several tick species. Vector competence of Ixodes ricinus, one of the most common tick species in Europe, has been poorly investigated for WNV to date. As such, to evaluate the vector competence, laboratory reared Ixodes ricinus nymphs were in vitro fed with WNV lineage 1 infectious blood, allowed to molt, and the resulting females artificially fed to study the virus transmission. Furthermore, we studied the kinetics of WNV replication in ticks after infecting nymphs using an automatic injector. Active replication of WNV was detected in injected nymphs from day 7 post-infection until 28 dpi. In the nymphs infected by artificial feeding, the transstadial transmission of WNV was confirmed molecularly in 46.7% of males, while virus transmission during in vitro feeding of I. ricinus females originating from infected nymphs was not registered. The long persistence of WNV in I. ricinus ticks did not correlate with the transmission of the virus and it is unlikely that I. ricinus represents a competent vector. However, there is a potential reservoir role that this tick species can play, with hosts potentially acquiring the viral agent after ingesting the infected ticks.