Globalization, Land Use, and the Invasion of West Nile Virus

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Science  21 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6054, pp. 323-327
DOI: 10.1126/science.1201010

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Many invasive species that have been spread through the globalization of trade and travel are pathogens. A paradigmatic case is the introduction of West Nile virus (WNV) into North America in 1999. A decade of research on the ecology and evolution of WNV includes three findings that provide insight into the outcome of future pathogen introductions. First, WNV transmission in North America is highest in urbanized and agricultural habitats, in part because the hosts and vectors of WNV are abundant in human-modified areas. Second, after its introduction, the virus quickly adapted to infect local mosquito vectors more efficiently than the originally introduced strain. Third, highly focused feeding patterns of the mosquito vectors of WNV result in unexpected host species being important for transmission. This research provides a framework for predicting and preventing the emergence of foreign vector-borne pathogens.

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