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Malaria infection increases bird attractiveness to uninfected mosquitoes

Authors

  • Stéphane Cornet,

    Corresponding author
    1. UMR CNRS 5290-IRD 224-UM1-UM2, Maladies Infectieuses et Vecteurs: Ecologie, Génétique, Evolution et Contrôle (MIVEGEC), Montpellier, France
    • Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), Montpellier, France
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  • Antoine Nicot,

    1. Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), Montpellier, France
    2. UMR CNRS 5290-IRD 224-UM1-UM2, Maladies Infectieuses et Vecteurs: Ecologie, Génétique, Evolution et Contrôle (MIVEGEC), Montpellier, France
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  • Ana Rivero,

    1. UMR CNRS 5290-IRD 224-UM1-UM2, Maladies Infectieuses et Vecteurs: Ecologie, Génétique, Evolution et Contrôle (MIVEGEC), Montpellier, France
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  • Sylvain Gandon

    1. Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), Montpellier, France
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Correspondence: E-mail: stephan.cornet@gmail.com / stephane.cornet@ird.fr

Abstract

The epidemiology of vector-borne pathogens is largely determined by the host-choice behaviour of their vectors. Here, we investigate whether a Plasmodium infection renders the host more attractive to host-seeking mosquitoes. For this purpose, we work on a novel experimental system: the avian malaria parasite Plasmodium relictum, and its natural vector, the mosquito Culex pipiens. We provide uninfected mosquitoes with a choice between an uninfected bird and a bird undergoing either an acute or a chronic Plasmodium infection. Mosquito choice is assessed by microsatellite typing of the ingested blood. We show that chronically infected birds attract significantly more vectors than either uninfected or acutely infected birds. Our results suggest that malaria parasites manipulate the behaviour of uninfected vectors to increase their transmission. We discuss the underlying mechanisms driving this behavioural manipulation, as well as the broader implications of these effects for the epidemiology of malaria.

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