Culicoides oxystoma (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) is an important vector species, reported mainly from Asia, with high potential to transmit viral diseases affecting livestock. In Japan, many arboviruses have been isolated from C. oxystoma, suggesting it as a key player in the epidemiology of several Culicoides-borne diseases. Over the years, C. oxystoma has also been reported in the Middle East region, including Israel. In this region, however, C. oxystoma cannot be easily distinguished morphologically from its sibling species included in the Culicoides schultzei complex. We therefore used genomic data for species identification and phylogeny resolution. Phylogenetic analyses based on internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS-1) of ribosomal DNA and the mitochondrial gene encoding cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) showed that C. oxystoma from Israel is closely related to C. oxystoma from Japan. Using differential probing PCR, we showed that C. oxystoma is distributed all over the country, especially in Mediterranean climate regions. Culicoides oxystoma is less common or even absent in arid regions, while the other genetic cluster of C. schultzei complex was found only in the east of the country (mostly arid and semiarid regions). The molecular finding of C. oxystoma in wide geographical regions, together with its high proportion in the general Culicoides population and its vectoring potential, imply that it may be an important vector species in the Middle East.
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