Temperature drives Zika virus transmission: evidence from empirical and mathematical models


Temperature is a strong driver of vector-borne disease transmission. Yet, for emerging arboviruses we lack fundamental knowledge on the relationship between transmission and temperature. Current models rely on the untested assumption that Zika virus responds similarly to dengue virus, potentially limiting our ability to accurately predict the spread of Zika. We conducted experiments to estimate the thermal performance of Zika virus (ZIKV) in field-derived Aedes aegypti across eight constant temperatures. We observed strong, unimodal effects of temperature on vector competence, extrinsic incubation period and mosquito survival. We used thermal responses of these traits to update an existing temperature-dependent model to infer temperature effects on ZIKV transmission. ZIKV transmission was optimized at 29°C, and had a thermal range of 22.7°C–34.7°C. Thus, as temperatures move towards the predicted thermal optimum (29°C) owing to climate change, urbanization or seasonality, Zika could expand north and into longer seasons. By contrast, areas that are near the thermal optimum were predicted to experience a decrease in overall environmental suitability. We also demonstrate that the predicted thermal minimum for Zika transmission is 5°C warmer than that of dengue, and current global estimates on the environmental suitability for Zika are greatly over-predicting its possible range.

Blanka Tesla, Leah R. Demakovsky, Erin A. Mordecai, Sadie J. Ryan, Matthew H. Bonds, Calistus N. Ngonghala, Melinda A. Brindley, and Courtney C. Murdock. 2018. Proceedings of the Royal Society B; 285(1884):0962-8452. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.0795

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