Background: Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are vectors for many arboviruses. At least 20 species are considered as vectors or potential vectors of bluetongue virus (BTV) which cause bluetongue disease in ruminants. A BTV prevalence of 30–50% among cattle and goats in tropical southern Yunnan Province, China, prompted an investigation of the potential BTV vectors in this area.
Methods: Culicoides were collected by light trapping at three sites in the tropical region of Yunnan Province. Species were identified based on morphology and DNA sequences of cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1). PCR and quantitative PCR following reverse transcription were used to test for the presence of BTV RNA in these specimens. Phylogenetic analysis was used to analyze the cox1 sequences of Culicoides specimens infected with BTV.
Results: Approximately 67,000 specimens of Culicoides were collected, of which 748 were tested for the presence of BTV. Five specimens, including two of Culicoides jacobsoni, one of C. tainanus and two of C. imicola, were identified as infected with BTV. No specimens of C. (subgenus Trithecoides) or C. oxystoma tested were positive for BTV infection.
Conclusions: To our knowledge this is the first report of C. jacobsoni as a potential BTV vector and the fourth report of an association between C. tainanus and BTV, as well as the first direct evidence of an association between BTV and C. imicola in Asia. A fourth potential cryptic species within C. tainanus was identified in this study. Further analysis is required to confirm the importance of C. jacobsoni and C. tainanus in BTV epidemiology in Asia. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]