Bloodmeal analysis in Culicoides midges collected near horses, donkeys and zebras in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

04 Oct 2019

An upsurge in African horse sickness (AHS) in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, from 2006 led to an epidemiological reassessment of the disease there. Light trapping surveys carried out near horses, donkeys and zebras in 2014–2016 collected 39 species of Culicoides midge (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) that are potential vectors of AHS. To establish if these midges fed on equids, DNA sequences were obtained from the gut contents of 52 female midges (35 freshly blood‐fed, 13 gravid and four parous), representing 11 species collected across 11 sites. Culicoides leucostictus fed on all three equids. Culicoides bolitinos, Culicoides imicola and Culicoides magnus fed on both horses and donkeys. Culicoides onderstepoortensis fed on donkeys, and Culicoides similis and Culicoides pycnostictus fed on zebras. Bloodmeals from cows, pigs, warthogs, impalas and a domestic dog were also identified in various species, but none of the midges tested had fed on birds. These results contribute to knowledge of the vectorial capacity of several species of Culicoides with regard to AHS in the Eastern Cape and point to potential reservoir hosts, of which donkeys, zebras and domestic dogs have previously been found to harbour AHS. Blood‐fed midges were also obtained throughout winter, indicating the potential for endemic AHS in the province.