Potential for Zika Virus to Establish a Sylvatic Transmission Cycle in the Americas

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2016 Dec 15;10(12):e0005055. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005055. eCollection 2016 Dec.


Zika virus (ZIKV) originated and continues to circulate in a sylvatic transmission cycle between non-human primate hosts and arboreal mosquitoes in tropical Africa. Recently ZIKV invaded the Americas, where it poses a threat to human health, especially to pregnant women and their infants. Here we examine the risk that ZIKV will establish a sylvatic cycle in the Americas, focusing on Brazil. We review the natural history of sylvatic ZIKV and present a mathematical dynamic transmission model to assess the probability of establishment of a sylvatic ZIKV transmission cycle in non-human primates and/or other mammals and arboreal mosquito vectors in Brazil. Brazil is home to multiple species of primates and mosquitoes potentially capable of ZIKV transmission, though direct assessment of host competence (ability to mount viremia sufficient to infect a feeding mosquito) and vector competence (ability to become infected with ZIKV and disseminate and transmit upon subsequent feedings) of New World species is lacking. Modeling reveals a high probability of establishment of sylvatic ZIKV across a large range of biologically plausible parameters. Probability of establishment is dependent on host and vector population sizes, host birthrates, and ZIKV force of infection. Research on the host competence of New World monkeys or other small mammals to ZIKV, on vector competence of New World Aedes, Sabethes, and Haemagogus mosquitoes for ZIKV, and on the geographic range of potential New World hosts and vectors is urgently needed. A sylvatic cycle of ZIKV would make future elimination efforts in the Americas practically impossible, and paints a dire picture for the epidemiology of ZIKV and our ability to end the ongoing outbreak of congenital Zika syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aedes / virology
  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Americas / epidemiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / virology*
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Mosquito Vectors / classification
  • Mosquito Vectors / physiology*
  • Mosquito Vectors / virology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Primates / virology*
  • Social Environment
  • Viremia
  • Zika Virus / physiology*
  • Zika Virus Infection / congenital
  • Zika Virus Infection / epidemiology*
  • Zika Virus Infection / transmission*
  • Zika Virus Infection / virology