Seasonal shifts in host use by mosquitoes from birds to mammals drive the timing and intensity of annual epidemics of mosquito-borne viruses, such as West Nile virus, in North America. The biological mechanism underlying these shifts has been a matter of debate, with hypotheses falling into two camps: (1) the shift is driven by changes in host abundance, or (2) the shift is driven by seasonal changes in the foraging behavior of mosquitoes. Here we explored the idea that seasonal changes in host use by mosquitoes are driven by temporal patterns of host reproduction. We investigated the relationship between seasonal patterns of host use by mosquitoes and host reproductive phenology by examining a seven-year dataset of blood meal identifications from a site in Tuskegee National Forest, Alabama USA and data on reproduction from the most commonly utilized endothermic (white-tailed deer, great blue heron, yellow-crowned night heron) and ectothermic (frogs) hosts. Our analysis revealed that feeding on each host peaked during periods of reproductive activity. Specifically, mosquitoes utilized herons in the spring and early summer, during periods of peak nest occupancy, whereas deer were fed upon most during the late summer and fall, the period corresponding to the peak in births for deer. For frogs, however, feeding on early- and late-season breeders paralleled peaks in male vocalization. We demonstrate for the first time that seasonal patterns of host use by mosquitoes track the reproductive phenology of the hosts. Peaks in relative mosquito feeding on each host during reproductive phases are likely the result of increased tolerance and decreased vigilance to attacking mosquitoes by nestlings and brooding adults (avian hosts), quiescent young (avian and mammalian hosts), and mate-seeking males (frogs).
Cattle persistently infected (PI) with bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), a pestivirus in the family Flaviviridae, are an important source of viral transmission to susceptible hosts. Persistent BVDV infections have been identified in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the most abundant free-ranging ruminant in North America. As PI deer shed BVDV similarly to PI cattle, maintenance of BVDV within white-tailed deer populations may be possible. To date, intraspecific transmission of BVDV in white-tailed deer has not been evaluated, which prompted this study. Six pregnant white-tailed deer were captured in the first trimester of pregnancy and cohabitated with a PI white-tailed deer. Cohabitation with the PI deer resulted in BVDV infection in all does, as indicated by seroconversion. All does gave birth to live fawns and no reproductive losses were observed. At birth, evidence of BVDV infection was identified in two singlet fawns, of which one was determined to be PI by repeated serum reverse transcription nested PCR, whole blood virus isolation and immunohistochemistry. This study demonstrates for the first time that BVDV transmission may occur among white-tailed deer. The birth of a PI fawn through contact to a PI white-tailed deer indicates that under appropriate circumstances, BVDV may be maintained in white-tailed deer by congenital infection.
Economic losses due to infection with Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) have prompted introduction of organized control programs. These programs primarily focus on the removal of persistently infected (PI) animals, the main source of BVDV transmission. Recently, persistent BVDV infection was demonstrated experimentally in white-tailed deer, the most abundant wild ruminant in North America. Contact of cattle and white-tailed deer may result in interspecific BVDV transmission and birth of persistently infected offspring that could be a threat to control programs. The objective of this study was to assess the potential for interspecific BVDV transmission from persistently infected cattle cohabitated with pregnant white-tailed deer. Seven female and one male white-tailed deer were captured and bred in captivity. At approximately 50 days of gestation, two cattle persistently infected with BVDV 1 were cohabitated with the deer. In a pen of approximately 0.8 ha, both species shared food and water sources for a period of 60 days. Transmission of BVDV as indicated by seroconversion was demonstrated in all exposed adult deer. Of the seven pregnancies, four resulted in offspring that were infected with BVDV. Persistent infection was demonstrated in three singlet fawns by immunohistochemistry and ELISA on skin samples, PCR, and virus isolation procedures. Furthermore, two stillborn fetuses were apparently persistently infected. This is the first report of BVDV transmission from cattle to white-tailed deer using a model of natural challenge. Under appropriate circumstances, BVDV may efficiently cross the species barrier to cause transplacental infection and persistently infected offspring in a wildlife species.
Multiple phage-peptide constructs, where the peptides mimic sperm epitopes that bind to zona pellucida (ZP) proteins, were generated via selection from a phage display library using a novel approach. Selections were designed to allow for identification of ZP-binding phage clones with potential species-specific properties, an important feature for wildlife oral vaccines as the goal is to control overpopulation of a target species while not affecting non-target species reproduction. Six phage-peptide antigens were injected intramuscularly into pigs and corresponding immune responses evaluated. Administration of the antigens into pigs stimulated production of anti-peptide antibodies, which were shown to act as anti-sperm antibodies. Potentially, such anti-sperm antibodies could interfere with sperm delivery or function in the male or female genital tract, leading to contraceptive effects. Staining of semen samples collected from different mammalian species, including pig, cat, dog, bull, and mouse, with anti-sera from pigs immunized with ZP-binding phage allowed identification of phage-peptide constructs with different levels of species specificity. Based on the intensity of the immune responses and specificity of these responses in different species, two of the antigens with fusion peptide sequences GEGGYGSHD and GQQGLNGDS were recognized as the most promising candidates for development of contraceptive vaccines for wild pigs.
A mixture of common Southern Piedmont (USA) grassland species (Lolium arundinacea, Paspalum dilatatum, Cynodon dactylon and Trifolium repens) was exposed to O(3) [ambient (non-filtered; NF) and twice-ambient (2X) concentrations] and fed to individually caged New Zealand white rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in a digestibility experiment. Forages and feed refusals were analyzed for concentrations of total cell wall constituents, lignin, crude protein, and soluble and hydrolyzable phenolic fractions. Neutral detergent fiber and acid detergent fiber digestibility by rabbits were significantly lower for 2X than NF forage. Decreased digestibility could not be attributed to lignin concentrations, but was associated with increased concentrations of acid-hydrolyzable and saponifiable phenolics. Exposure of forage to elevated O(3) resulted in decreased digestible dry matter intake by rabbits. Elevated O(3) concentrations could be expected to have a negative impact on forage quality, resulting in decreased nutrient utilization by mammalian herbivores in Southern Piedmont grasslands under projected future climate scenarios.
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