Cimicid Bugs as Disease Vectors: Alphavirus Dynamics in the Swallow Bug (Oeciacus vicarius)

Monday, April 4, 2016 - 4:10pm
Event Type: 

Carol Fassbinder-Orth, Creighton University, Department of Biology

Monday, 4:10 p.m. E164 Lagomarcino Hall​

Abstract. Alphaviruses are globally-distributed, positive-sense RNA viruses transmitted by arthropods that are responsible for a number of encephalitic and rheumatic diseases in vertebrates.  A unique alphavirus that is understudied is Buggy Creek virus (BCRV).  BCRV, like many other alphaviruses, has avian reservoir hosts. However, BCRV differs significantly from other alphaviruses because it is vectored primarily by an ectoparasitic swallow bug (Oeciacus vicarius), rather than by mosquitoes. The swallow bug is an insect in the same family (Cimicidae) as the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius). Although there are no known pathogens naturally transmitted by human bedbugs at this time, there are at least four known alphaviruses that can replicate in other cimicid bugs (swallow bugs and bat bugs), and it is possible that bed bugs could be competent vectors for transmitting human alphaviruses.  We recently discovered that BCRV, like other alphaviruses, appears to generate defective interfering particles (DI particles: virus particles with incomplete replication and packaging capacities that inhibit replication of normal, wildtype virus). Research in other alphaviruses suggests that the virus may transition to DI particles during times of environmental stress and reduced replicative potential (e.g. overwintering insects). We are currently investigating the viral ecology of DI particles in swallow bugs and avian hosts during different times of year and environmental conditions to better understand the virus-insect-bird transmission dynamics of this system.