Chikungunya virus (Togaviridae, Alphavirus; CHIKV) is a mosquito-borne global health threat that has been transmitted transiently in the southeastern United States. A primary CHIKV mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, was recently established in the populous state of California, but the vector competence of Californian mosquitoes is unknown. Explosive CHIKV epidemics since 2004 have been associated with the acquisition of mosquito-adaptive mutations that enhance transmission by Ae. aegypti or Ae. albopictus. As a highly mutable RNA virus, CHIKV has the potential for extensive and rapid genetic diversification in vertebrate hosts and mosquito vectors. We previously demonstrated that expansion of CHIKV diversity in cell culture allows for greater adaptability to novel selection pressures, and that CHIKV fidelity variants are able to diversify more than wildtype (WT) CHIKV in mice. The evolution of intra-vector CHIKV populations and the correlation between CHIKV population diversity and infectivity and transmissibility in mosquitoes has not yet been studied. Here, we address these gaps in knowledge via experimental infection of Ae. aegypti from California with WT and fidelity variant CHIKV. We show that Ae. aegypti from California are highly competent vectors for CHIKV. We also report that CHIKV fidelity variants diversify more than WT in mosquitoes and exhibit attenuated infectivity at the level of the midgut. Furthermore, we demonstrate that intra-vector populations of CHIKV are subjected to purifying selection in mosquito bodies, and sequences of non-coding CHIKV regions are highly conserved. These findings will inform public health risk assessment for CHIKV in California and improve our understanding of constraints to CHIKV evolution in mosquitoes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases