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Zika virus: Study shows that several North American animals unlikely to be reservoirs

A new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal, Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, investigated whether animals within certain taxonomic groups in North America have the potential to serve as ZIKV amplifying or maintenance hosts.

Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published monthly online with open access options and in print dedicated to diseases transmitted to humans by insects or animals.
Image/Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers

In the article entitled “Investigating the Potential Role of North American Animals as Hosts for Zika Virus,” coauthors Izabela Ragan, Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine (Manhattan, KS), and Emily Blizzard, Paul Gordy, and Richard Bowen, Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO) report on their experimental infection of animals common in North America.

Species investigated included armadillos, cottontail rabbits, goats, mink, chickens, pigeons, ground hogs, deer mice, cattle, raccoons, ducks, Syrian Golden hamsters, garter snakes, leopard frogs, house sparrows, and pigs. The researchers tested the animals’ blood for the presence of infectious virus and antibodies to Zika virus.

The study indicates that the animals tested to date are unlikely to act as animal reservoirs for ZIKV, but that rabbits and pigs could potentially serve as sentinel species in North America where virus is transmitted by A. albopictus, which will feed on these species. .

“This paper answers a very important question regarding the potential role of non-primate vertebrates in the transmission cycle of Zika virus,” says Stephen Higgs, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, and Director, Biosecurity Research Institute, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS. “It is vitally important to understand the potential for the virus to be transmitted outside of a human-mosquito cycle. The possibility that domesticated or wild animals living in close proximity to humans might serve as an unseen reservoir for Zika virus would have a great impact on our ability to control Zika virus in an urban environment.”