Background: Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an emerging arbovirus, belonging to the Togaviridae family, Alphavirus genus, transmitted by Aedes spp. mosquitoes. Since 2007, two different CHIKV strains (E1-226A and E1-226V) have been responsible for outbreaks in European countries, including Italy, sustained by Ae. albopictus mosquitoes. Findings: In this study, we assessed the susceptibility to the CHIKV E1-226V, strain responsible for the Italian 2007 outbreak, of eight Ae. albopictus populations collected in Northern, Central, Southern, and Island Italy, by experimental infections. Vector competence was evaluated by estimating infection, dissemination, and transmission rates (IR, DR, TR), through detection of the virus in the bodies, legs plus wings, and saliva, respectively. Additionally, vertical transmission was evaluated by the detection of the virus in the offspring. The results of our study demonstrated that the Italian populations of Ae. albopictus tested were susceptible to CHIKV infection, and can disseminate the virus outside the midgut barrier with high values of IR and DR. Viral infectious RNA was detected in the saliva of three populations from Central, Southern, and Island Italy, also tested for TR and population transmission rate (PTR) values. No progeny of the first and second gonotrophic cycle were positive for CHIKV. Conclusions: This study strongly confirms the role of Ae. albopictus as a potential CHIKV vector in Italy. This may represent a threat, especially considering both the high density of this species, which is widespread throughout the country, and the increasing number of cases of imported arboviruses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases