Malaria is one of the three most lethal infectious diseases. Unlike AIDS and tuberculosis, malaria is unique in that the parasite must complete a complex differentiation program in its mosquito vector for transmission to occur (1) (Fig. 1). Despite significant progress made in the last couple of decades, our mechanistic understanding of how the parasite develops in the mosquito is incomplete.
Mosquitoes transmit pathogens that kill >700,000 people annually. These insects use body heat to locate and feed on warm-blooded hosts, but the molecular basis of such behavior is unknown. Here, we identify ionotropic receptor IR21a, a receptor conserved throughout insects, as a key mediator of heat seeking in the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae.
A good understanding of mosquito ecology is imperative for integrated vector control of malaria. In breeding sites, Anopheles larvae are concurrently exposed to predators and parasites. However, to our knowledge, there is no study on combined effects of predators and parasites on development and survival of larvae and their carry-over effects on adult survivorship and susceptibility to further parasite infection.
The association between irrigation and the proliferation of adult mosquitoes including malaria vectors is well known; however, irrigation schemes are treated as homogenous spatio-temporal units, with little consideration for how larval breeding varies across space and time. The objective of this study was to estimate the spatio-temporal distribution of pools of water facilitating breeding at the Bwanje Valley Irrigation Scheme (BVIS) in Malawi, Africa as a function of environmental and anthropogenic characteristics.
The blood-feeding behavior of Anopheles females delivers essential nutrients for egg development and drives parasite transmission between humans. Plasmodium growth is adapted to the vector reproductive cycle, but how changes in the reproductive cycle impact parasite development remains unclear. Here, we show that the bloodmeal-induced miR-276-5p fine-tunes the expression of branched-chain amino acid transferase to terminate the reproductive cycle.
Malaria parasites face dynamically changing environments and strong selective constraints within human and mosquito hosts. To survive such hostile and shifting conditions, Plasmodium switches transcriptional programs during development and has evolved mechanisms to adjust its phenotype through heterogeneous patterns of gene expression. In vitro studies on culture-adapted isolates have served to set the link between chromatin structure and functional gene expression.
Peptidoglycan recognition proteins (PGRPs) constitute the primary means of bacterial recognition in insects. Recent work in the model organism Drosophila has revealed the mechanisms by which the complement of PGRPs refine the sensitivity of different tissues to bacterial elicitors, permitting the persistence of commensal bacteria in the gut whilst maintaining vigilance against bacterial infection.
Mating causes dramatic changes in female physiology, behaviour, and immunity in many insects, inducing oogenesis, oviposition, and refractoriness to further mating. Females from the Anopheles gambiae species complex typically mate only once in their lifetime during which they receive sperm and seminal fluid proteins as well as a mating plug that contains the steroid hormone 20-hydroxyecdysone.
There is growing interest in the potential to modify houses to target mosquitoes with insecticides or repellents as they search for human hosts. One version of this ‘Lethal House Lure’ approach is the In2Care® EaveTube, which consists of a section of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe fitted into a closed eave, with an insert comprising electrostatic netting treated with insecticide powder placed inside the tube. Preliminary evidence suggests that when combined with screening of doors and windows, there is a reduction in entry of mosquitoes and an increase in mortality. However, the rate of overnight mortality remains unclear. The current study used a field enclosure built around experimental huts to investigate the mortality of cohorts of mosquitoes over multiple nights.
When ingested by a mosquito, the malaria parasite relies on an unusual form of gliding motility to escape from the rapidly deteriorating blood meal.