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The presence of Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes in human blood increases the gravidity of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes

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We conducted a field study in an area of endemic malaria transmission in western Kenya to determine whether mosquitoes that feed on gametocyte-infected blood but do not become infected have reduced or enhanced fecundity in comparison to mosquitoes fed on uninfected blood. Fifteen paired membrane-feeding experiments were conducted in which two strains of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes were simultaneously fed on either Plasmodium falciparum-infected blood from children or uninfected control blood from adults. The presence of noninfecting gametocytes in blood increased the probability that An. gambiae would produce eggs after one blood meal by sixfold (odds ratio for control relative to infected blood group 0.16; 95% CI 0.10-0.23). This result could not be explained by variation in blood meal size or hemoglobin content between hosts. When children cleared their infections, the difference in gravidity between mosquitoes fed on their blood and uninfected adults disappeared, suggesting this phenomenon is due to the presence of Plasmodium gametocytes in blood and not to host-specific factors such as age. This result was observed in two mosquito strains that differ in their innate fecundity, suggesting it may apply generally. To our knowledge, this is the first time that Plasmodium has been implicated as enhancing vector gravidity.

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