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Molecular identification of bloodmeals from biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae: Culicoides Latreille) in Denmark

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Culicoides vectors are critical to the survival and transmission of bluetongue virus as infection only occurs in areas or regions where competent vectors are present. The success of Culicoides biting midges as vectors is mainly related to their vast population sizes and to their means of dispersal. Their choice of host for blood feeding is sparsely described. The aim of the present study was to establish methods for the identification of bloodmeal hosts and determine the identity and diversity of bloodmeals of vertebrate hosts from wild-caught biting midges near livestock farms. The study includes some of the most common and abundant species of biting midges in Denmark: Culicoides obsoletus, Culicoides scoticus, Culicoides pulicaris and Culicoides punctatus. We collected 8,378 biting midges including nine species of Culicoides of which blood-fed specimens were found from six species. We identified 251 blood engorged biting midges, and hosts were identified in 115 of 125 analysed specimens (90%). Cow, roe deer, horse, mallard and wood pigeon were identified as hosts. The most abundant host species was cow, which constituted 73.9% of the total identified bloodmeals, but the common wood pigeon was found with a frequency as high as 18.3%. In conclusion, the molecular methods applied were proven useful in identifying bloodmeal hosts from different Culicoides species. The results indicate that Culicoides species are opportunistic in their choice of bloodmeal host with a preference for cattle when present, which is important to have in mind for epidemiologist when making predictive models. Accordingly, the results of this study will add useful parameters for modelling bluetongue virus transmission and in the development of veterinary contingency plans.

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The project was supported by the Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. We thank an anonymous reviewer for many helpful suggestions.

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Correspondence to Michael Kristensen.

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Lassen, S.B., Nielsen, S.A., Skovgård, H. et al. Molecular identification of bloodmeals from biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae: Culicoides Latreille) in Denmark. Parasitol Res 108, 823–829 (2011).

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