After analyzing Culicoides impunctatus, also known as “midge,” generally widespread from late spring until summer in Scotland and Wales (but can be found in all northern regions of the Palearctic), a group of researchers discovered several new viruses.
Among them, the researchers have classified an alphavirus and a chuvirus, viruses that, at least at the moment, are not considered a threat to humans. These small flying insects are in fact known because they also sting humans but all the blood they need is taken mostly from mammals such as cattle, sheep, deer, or birds, such as herons.
In rare cases, they have been found to carry arboviruses, which were found to be responsible for an emergency following the spread of the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in Europe in 2011.
In relation to the study modalities used, the principal author of the research, Sejal Modha, states in the press release: “The technology we have used has allowed us to examine the viruses carried by midges in a way that cannot be done in the laboratory, expanding our knowledge of insect viruses in a way that could be very useful in the future.”
The other author of the study, Joseph Hughes, points out how much this discovery represents only the small tip of a huge iceberg about the millions of species of viruses that exist. Even if we consider those carried by insects, with 5.5 million species of insects classified to date, there are probably tens, if not hundreds, of millions of different species of viruses never detected by humans.