After bluetongue (BT) appeared in northern Europe in August 2006 entomological studies were implemented in all five affected Member States (MSs) to establish which species of Culicoides had acted as vectors. The findings can be summarised as follows: (i) C. imicola the principal southern European/African vector of BTV has not penetrated into northern Europe, (ii) three pools of C. obsoletus/C. scoticus and one of C. dewulfi assayed RT-PCR-positive to BTV-8, (iii) in support of these results it was found that both potential vectors had also high parity rates (approximately 40%) indicating increased longevity favouring BTV virogenesis and transmission, (iv) furthermore, C. obsoletus/C. scoticus and C. dewulfi occurred also widely and abundantly on sheep and cattle holdings across the entire affected region, (v) and during the latter part of the season showed strong endophily readily entering livestock buildings in significant numbers to bite the animals inside (endophagy), (vi) which demonstrates that housing at best offers only limited protection to livestock from Culicoides attacks, (vii) in contrast the potential vector C. pulicaris sensu stricto was restricted geographically, was captured rarely, had a low parity rate (10%) and was exophilic indicating it played no role in the outbreak of BT, (viii) the incrimination of C. dewulfi as a novel vector is significant because it breeds in cattle and horse dung this close association raising its vectorial potential, but (ix) problems with its taxonomy (and that of the Obsoletus and Pulicaris species complexes) illustrates the need for morphological and molecular techniques to become more fully integrated to ensure progress in the accurate identification of vector Culicoides, (x) midge densities (as adjudged by light traps) were generally low indicating northern European Culicoides to have a high vector potential and/or that significant numbers of midges are going undetected because they are biting (and transmitting BTV) during the day when light traps are not effective, and (xi) the sporadic capture of Culicoides in the winter of 2007 invites re-examination of the current definition of a vector-free period. The re-emergence of BT over a wide front in 2007 raises anew questions as to precisely how the virus overwinters and asks also that we scrutinise our monitoring systems in terms of their sensitivity and early warning capability.
- culicoides biting midges