Biting midges (Culicoides species) are vectors of arboviruses and were responsible for the emergence and spread of Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in Europe in 2011 and are likely to be involved in the emergence of other arboviruses in Europe. Improved surveillance and better understanding of risks require a better understanding of the circulating viral diversity in these biting insects. In this study, we expand the sequence space of RNA viruses by identifying a number of novel RNA viruses from Culicoides impunctatus (biting midge) using a meta-transcriptomic approach. A novel metaviromic pipeline called MetaViC was developed specifically to identify novel virus sequence signatures from high throughput sequencing (HTS) datasets in the absence of a known host genome. MetaViC is a protein centric pipeline that looks for specific protein signatures in the reads and contigs generated as part of the pipeline. Several novel viruses, including an alphanodavirus with both segments, a novel relative of the Hubei sobemo-like virus 49, two rhabdo-like viruses and a chuvirus, were identified in the Scottish midge samples. The newly identified viruses were found to be phylogenetically distinct to those previous known. These findings expand our current knowledge of viral diversity in arthropods and especially in these understudied disease vectors.
Keywords: Culicoides impunctatus; RNA viruses; metaviromics.