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Dr. Eleonora SchönherrPresse- & ÖffentlichkeitsarbeitPhone: +49 40 42818-269
Mail: presse(at)bnitm.de

Julia HäberleinPresse- & ÖffentlichkeitsarbeitPhone: +49 40 42818-264
Mail: presse(at)bnitm.de

West Nile Virus Grows in the German “Common House Mosquito”

In the beginning of the century, West Nile virus spread all over North America within a few years and caused an estimated 100,000 disease cases and 1,500 fatalities. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, birds are the natural hosts, and it is assumed that migratory birds carry it across countries and continents. In southeast Europe, too, outbreaks are recorded, more recently also single cases in Austria. Germany remained unaffected as yet.

Mosquitoes transmit the West Nile virus to birds and mammals. But only in birds, the virus can multiply to an extent enabling further transmission by mosquitoes. Humans and in particular horses can be infected and fall sick but are a dead end for transmission because the number of viruses in their blood is too low to allow for multiplication in mosquitoes after a blood meal.
Mosquitoes transmit the West Nile virus to birds and mammals. But only in birds, the virus can multiply to an extent enabling further transmission by mosquitoes. Humans and in particular horses can be infected and fall sick but are a dead end for transmission because the number of viruses in their blood is too low to allow for multiplication in mosquitoes after a blood meal.

Through studies in our biosafety insectary, we found that German domestic mosquitoes, like our ”ordinary house mosquito” Culex pipiens and its subspecies, can take up and propagate the virus, at least under laboratory conditions. However, none of 300,000 free-living mosquitoes caught in Germany was found to carry the virus. Likewise, none of 2,000 hen’s eggs collected in Southwest Germany was found to contain antibodies against the virus indicating that the hens were not infected, and only very few infected wild birds were detected. Obviously, our migratory birds carry the virus only rarely, and therefore, no humans have been infected in Germany so far.


Leggewie M. et al., One Health 2016, 2:88-94

Börstler J. et al., Trop Med Int Health 2016, 21:687-90

Mayke Leggewie, Marlis Badusche, Martin Rudolf, Stephanie Jansen, Jessica Börstler, Ralf Krumkamp, Katrin Huber, Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, Egbert Tannich, Stefanie Becker and external co-operation partners (see publication)