Using molecular techniques and bioinformatics tools, we studied the vector-host interactions and the molecular epidemiology of West Nile virus (WNV) in western Iran. Mosquitoes were collected during 2017 and 2018. DNA typing assays were used to study vector-host interactions. Mosquitoes were screened by RT-PCR for the genomes of five virus families. WNV-positive samples were fully sequenced and evolutionary tree and molecular architecture were constructed by Geneious software and SWISS-MODEL workspace, respectively. A total of 5028 mosquito specimens were collected and identified. The most prevalent species was Culex (Cx.) pipiens complex (57.3%). Analysis of the blood-feeding preferences of blood-fed mosquitoes revealed six mammalian and one bird species as hosts. One mosquito pool containing non-blood-fed Cx. theileri and one blood-fed Culex pipiens pipiens (Cpp.) biotype pipiens were positive for WNV. A phylogram indicated that the obtained WNV sequences belonged to lineage 2, subclade 2 g. Several amino acid substitutions suspected as virulence markers were observed in the Iranian WNV strains. The three-dimensional structural homology model of the E-protein identified hot spot domains known to facilitate virus invasion and neurotropism. The recent detection of WNV lineage 2 in mosquitoes from several regions of Iran in consecutive years suggests that the virus is established in the country.
ASJC Scopus subject areas