Biodiversity and relative abundance of ticks and associated arboviruses in Garissa (northeastern) and Isiolo (eastern) provinces of Kenya were evaluated. Ticks were collected from livestock, identified to species, pooled, and processed for virus isolation. In Garissa, Rhipicephalus pulchellus Gerstacker (57.8%) and Hyalomma truncatum Koch (27.8%) were the most abundant species sampled, whereas R. pulchellus (80.4%) and Amblyomma gemma Donitz (9.6%) were the most abundant in Isiolo. Forty-four virus isolates, comprising Dugbe virus (DUGV; n = 22) and Kupe virus (n = 10; Bunyaviridae: Nirovirus), Dhori virus (DHOV; n = 10; Orthomyxoviridae: Thogotovirus),and Ngari virus (NRIV; n = 2; Bunyaviridae: Orthobunyavirus), were recovered mostly from R. pulchellus sampled in Isiolo. DUGV was mostly recovered from R. pulchellus from sheep and cattle, and DHOV from R. pulchellus from sheep. All Kupe virus isolates were from Isiolo ticks, including R. pulchellus from all the livestock, A. gemma and Amblyomma variegatum F. from cattle, and H. truncatum from goat. NRIV was obtained from R. pulchellus and A. gemma sampled from cattle in Isiolo and Garissa, respectively, while all DHOV and most DUGV (n = 12) were from R. pulchellus sampled from cattle in Garissa. DUGV was also recovered from H. truncatum and Amblyomma hebraeum Koch from cattle and from Rhipicephalus annulatus Say from camel. This surveillance study has demonstrated the circulation of select tick-borne viruses in parts of eastern and northeastern provinces of Kenya, some of which are of public health importance. The isolation of NRIV from ticks is particularly significant because it is usually known to be a mosquito-borne virus affecting humans.
BACKGROUND: Increased frequency of arbovirus outbreaks in East Africa necessitated the determination of distribution of risk by entomologic arbovirus surveillance. A systematic vector surveillance programme spanning 5 years and covering 11 sites representing seven of the eight provinces in Kenya and located in diverse ecological zones was carried out. METHODS: Mosquitoes were sampled bi-annually during the wet seasons and screened for arboviruses. Mosquitoes were identified to species, pooled by species, collection date and site and screened for arboviruses by isolation in cell culture and/or RT-PCR screening and sequencing. RESULTS: Over 450,000 mosquitoes in 15,890 pools were screened with 83 viruses being detected/isolated that include members of the alphavirus, flavivirus and orthobunyavirus genera many of which are known to be of significant public health importance in the East African region. These include West Nile, Ndumu, Sindbis, Bunyamwera, Pongola and Usutu viruses detected from diverse sites. Ngari virus, which was associated with hemorrhagic fever in northern Kenya in 1997/98 was isolated from a pool of Anopheles funestus sampled from Tana-delta and from Aedes mcintoshi from Garissa. Insect only flaviviruses previously undescribed in Kenya were also isolated in the coastal site of Rabai. A flavivirus most closely related to the Chaoyang virus, a new virus recently identified in China and two isolates closely related to Quang Binh virus previously unreported in Kenya were also detected. CONCLUSION: Active transmission of arboviruses of public health significance continues in various parts of the country with possible undetermined human impact. Arbovirus activity was highest in the pastoralist dominated semi-arid to arid zones sites of the country where 49% of the viruses were isolated suggesting a role of animals as amplifiers and indicating the need for improved arbovirus disease diagnosis among pastoral communities.
West Nile virus (WNV) is currently active in Kenya as evidenced by the detection of antibodies in birds bled as part of an avian influenza surveillance program in 2009. Although WNV has been isolated from several mosquito species in Kenya, no studies have ever been conducted to determine which of these species are competent vectors of this virus. Therefore, we allowed Kenyan mosquitoes to feed on 2- or 3-d-old chickens that had been infected with a Lineage one strain of WNV 24-48 h earlier. These mosquitoes were tested approximately 2 wk later to determine infection, dissemination, and transmission rates. All five species [Culex quinquefasciatus Say, Culex univittatus Theobald, Culex vansomereni Edwards, Mansonia africana (Theobald), and Mansonia uniformis (Theobald)] were susceptible to infection, but disseminated infections were detected only in the three Culex, and not the two Mansonia species. Culex mosquitoes with a disseminated infection readily transmitted virus by bite, but even when inoculated with WNV, the two Mansonia failed to transmit virus, indicating a salivary gland barrier. These studies indicate that the three Culex species may play a role in the transmission of WNV in Kenya.
As part of ongoing arbovirus surveillance, we screened ticks obtained from livestock in northeastern Kenya in 2008 to assess the risk for human exposure to tick-borne viruses. Of 1,144 pools of 8,600 Hyalomma spp. ticks screened for Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever virus by reverse transcription PCR, 23 pools were infected, demonstrating a potential for human exposure.
In December 2006, Rift Valley fever (RVF) was diagnosed in humans in Garissa Hospital, Kenya and an outbreak reported affecting 11 districts. Entomologic surveillance was performed in four districts to determine the epidemic/epizootic vectors of RVF virus (RVFV). Approximately 297,000 mosquitoes were collected, 164,626 identified to species, 72,058 sorted into 3,003 pools and tested for RVFV by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Seventy-seven pools representing 10 species tested positive for RVFV, including Aedes mcintoshi/circumluteolus (26 pools), Aedes ochraceus (23 pools), Mansonia uniformis (15 pools); Culex poicilipes, Culex bitaeniorhynchus (3 pools each); Anopheles squamosus, Mansonia africana (2 pools each); Culex quinquefasciatus, Culex univittatus, Aedes pembaensis (1 pool each). Positive Ae. pembaensis, Cx. univittatus, and Cx. bitaeniorhynchus was a first time observation. Species composition, densities, and infection varied among districts supporting hypothesis that different mosquito species serve as epizootic/epidemic vectors of RVFV in diverse ecologies, creating a complex epidemiologic pattern in East Africa.
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