While the Zika virus (ZIKV) 2014–2017 pandemic has subsided, there remains active transmission. Apart from horizontal transmission to humans, the main vector Aedes aegypti
can transmit the virus vertically from mother to offspring. Large variation in vertical transmission (VT) efficiency between studies indicates the influence of parameters, which remain to be characterized. To determine the roles of extrinsic incubation time and gonotrophic cycle, we deployed an experimental design that quantifies ZIKV in individual progeny and larvae. We observed an early infection of ovaries that exponentially progressed. We quantified VT rate, filial infection rate, and viral load per infected larvae at 10 days post oral infection (d.p.i.) on the second gonotrophic cycle and at 17 d.p.i. on the second and third gonotrophic cycle. As compared to previous reports that studied pooled samples, we detected a relatively high VT efficiency from 1.79% at 10 d.p.i. and second gonotrophic cycle to 66% at 17 d.p.i. and second gonotrophic cycle. At 17 d.p.i., viral load largely varied and averaged around 800 genomic RNA (gRNA) copies. Longer incubation time and fewer gonotrophic cycles promoted VT. These results shed light on the mechanism of VT, how environmental conditions favor VT, and whether VT can maintain ZIKV circulation.
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