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Some Animals Act as Conduits for West Nile

New York Newsday (Internet/Print) June 7, 2005

Mosquitoes feeding on the same mouse can pass the West Nile virus among themselves, even in the absence of a viral infection in their unwitting host. This mosquito-to-mosquito transmission, observed in a laboratory by researchers from Texas and Britain, suggests the virus that has blazed across North America may have benefited from a mechanism in which some animals serve as little more than temporary conduits for viral particles. Mosquitoes normally acquire West Nile from infected birds. Stephen Higgs, a research scientist in the department of pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and a study co-author, said he was "shocked" by his group's discovery that uninfected mosquitoes also could receive the virus from their infected insect counterparts. Similar transmission routes for other diseases had been seen in ticks and black flies, but never before in mosquitoes. "We tried it, and were surprised that we saw anything at all," he said.

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