Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Tara Thiemann

First Committee Member

Shaoming Huang

Second Committee Member

Kirkwood Land

Abstract

Dirofilaria immitis Leidy (dog heartworm) is a life-threatening parasite transmitted by mosquitoes to domestic dogs. Endemic in the eastern United States, cases have become more prevalent over the last few decades. While prevalence in California is generally low, Lake and San Joaquin Counties have reported rates comparable to the East Coast at 3.73% and 0.71%(CAPC 2017), respectively. Aedes sierrensis is thought to be responsible for transmission in California, but in some cases, it exists in inadequate quantities and temporal ranges to explain parasite activity. Based on Huang et al. (2013) and Tran (2016), bloodfeeding patterns, and other vector criteria, Culex pipiens complex and Culiseta incidens were chosen to evaluate for vector competence. Female field-caught mosquitoes were reared, infected (2.5-5 mff/μl), and decapitated at 15, 18, or 21 days post infection (dpi). Cs. incidens was reluctant to feed using an artificial feeding system and will require additional trials. On the contrary, trials on Ae. sierrensis and Cx. pipiens complex were both completed successfully. Both species were determined to be competent vectors of D. immitis. Based on our findings, more than half of Ae. sierrensis females produced emerging L3s by 21 dpi, while Cx. pipiens complex never produced L3s in more than 5% of females. In conjunction with other factors such as the detection of D. immitis in wild mosquitoes, host-seeking preferences for domestic dogs, and appropriate temporal overlap, this suggests that both Ae. sierrensis and Cx. pipiens complex may play central roles in Lake or San Joaquin Counties, CA when abundant. Targeted control efforts are necessary to reduce the incidence of canine heartworm in these areas. While Lake and San Joaquin Counties, CA were the focus of this study, our results may be applicable to the western United States when these species are relevant.

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