The recent Zika virus (ZIKV) and chikungunya virus (CHIKV) epidemics highlight the explosive nature of arthropod-borne (arbo) viruses transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Vector competence and the extrinsic incubation period (EIP) are two key entomological parameters used to assess the public health risk posed by arboviruses. These are typically measured empirically by offering mosquitoes an infectious bloodmeal and temporally sampling mosquitoes to determine infection and transmission status. This approach has been used for the better part of a century; however, it does not accurately capture the biology and behavior of many mosquito vectors which refeed frequently (every 2-3 days). Here we demonstrate that administration of a second non-infectious bloodmeal significantly shortens the EIP of ZIKV-infected Ae. aegypti by enhancing virus escape from the mosquito midgut. Similarly, a second bloodmeal increased the competence of this species for dengue virus and CHIKV. This effect was also observed for ZIKV in Aedes albopictus, suggesting that this species might be a more important vector than once thought and that this phenomenon may be common among other virus-vector pairings. Modeling of these findings reveals that a shortened EIP would result in a significant increase in the basic reproductive number, R0. This increase helps explain how Ae. aegypti can sustain an explosive epidemic like ZIKV despite its relatively poor vector competence in single-feed laboratory trials. Together, these data demonstrate a direct and unrecognized link between mosquito feeding behavior, EIP, and vector competence.
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