Journal of the South African Veterinary Association
On-line version ISSN 2224-9435
Print version ISSN 1019-9128
VENTER, Gert J. et al. Culicoides species abundance and potential over-wintering of African horse sickness virus in the Onderstepoort area, Gauteng, South Africa. J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. [online]. 2014, vol.85, n.1, pp.01-06. ISSN 2224-9435. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v85i1.1102.
In South Africa, outbreaks of African horse sickness (AHS) occur in summer; no cases are reported in winter, from July to September. The AHS virus (AHSV) is transmitted almost exclusively byCulicoides midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), of which Culicoides imicola is considered to be the most important vector. The over-wintering mechanism of AHSV is unknown. In this study, more than 500 000 Culicoides midges belonging to at least 26 species were collected in 88 light traps at weekly intervals between July 2010 and September 2011 near horses in the Onderstepoort area of South Africa. The dominant species was C. imicola. Despite relatively low temperatures and frost, at least 17 species, including C. imicola, were collected throughout winter (June-August). Although the mean number of midges per night fell from > 50 000 (March) to < 100 (July and August), no midge-free periods were found. This study, using virus isolation on cell cultures and a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay, confirmed low infection prevalence in field midges and that the detection of virus correlated to high numbers. Although no virus was detected during this winter period, continuous adult activity indicated that transmission can potentially occur. The absence of AHSV in the midges during winter can be ascribed to the relatively low numbers collected coupled to low infection prevalence, low virus replication rates and low virus titres in the potentially infected midges. Cases of AHS in susceptible animals are likely to start as soon as Culicoides populations reach a critical level.