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Keywords:

  • avian malaria parasite;
  • feeding pattern;
  • Japanese wild birds;
  • transmission dynamics;
  • vector mosquito

Abstract

Heterogeneity in the transmission of mosquito-borne pathogens is determined largely by distribution patterns of mosquito bites among wild animal populations. Although mosquitoes are crucial for transmission of avian malaria parasites, little is known about the ecology of natural vectors. We examined bloodmeal and parasite incidence in Culex pipiens pallens by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based procedure to determine how the feeding pattern of mosquitoes govern transmission dynamics of avian malaria parasites in Japanese wild birds. We collected 881 unfed and 486 blood-fed Cx. pipiens pallens resting on vegetation in a park in Tokyo. The mosquitoes were separated into abdomen and thorax prior to PCR screening. Abdomens of unfed mosquitoes were combined into 95 pools. From these, we amplified Plasmodium DNA in 32 (33.7%) pools. Among blood-fed mosquitoes, 371 individuals were screened for blood-sources and Plasmodium parasites. Plasmodium DNA was amplified from mosquitoes fed on 6 of 13 avian species identified as blood-sources. Ten Plasmodium lineages were identified on the basis of 478 bp of the cytochrome b gene, with 0.2–10% sequence divergence. The three commonest Plasmodium lineages (CXPIP09, SGS1 and PADOM02) were detected in both the abdomens and thoraxes of mosquitoes, strongly suggesting transmission of these lineages. Jungle crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) served as a natural host for the three commonest Plasmodium lineages and made up 63.8% of blood-sources. As a significant increase in feeding of vector mosquitoes on jungle crows coincided with their breeding season, jungle crows were considered to be the primary reservoir of Plasmodium transmission in this study.