Capacity of mosquitoes to transmit malaria depends on larval environment

Lillian L. Moller-Jacobs, Courtney C. Murdock, Matthew B. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Background: Adult traits of holometabolous insects such as reproduction and survival can be shaped by conditions experienced during larval development. These "carry-over" effects influence not only individual life history and fitness, but can also impact interactions between insect hosts and parasites. Despite this, the implications of larval conditions for the transmission of human, wildlife and plant diseases that are vectored by insects remain poorly understood. Methods: We used Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes and the rodent malaria, Plasmodium yoelii yoelii, to investigate whether quality of larval habitat influenced vectorial capacity of adult mosquitoes. Larvae were reared under two dietary conditions; one group received a diet commonly used for colony maintenance (0.3 mg/individual/day of Tetrafin fish food) while the other group received a reduced food diet (0.1 mg/individual/day). Upon emergence, adults were provided an infectious blood feed. We assessed the effects of diet on a range of larval and adult traits including larval development times and survival, number of emerging adults, adult body size and survival, gonotrophic cycle length, and mating success. We also estimated the effects of larval diet on parasite infection rates and growth kinetics within the adult mosquitoes. Results: Larval dietary regime affected larval survival and development, as well as size, reproductive success and survival of adult mosquitoes. Larval diet also affected the intensity of initial Plasmodium infection (oocyst stage) and parasite replication, but without differences in overall infection prevalence at either the oocyst or sporozoite stage. Conclusions: Together, the combined effects led to a relative reduction in vectorial capacity (a measure of the transmission potential of a mosquito population) in the low food treatment of 70%. This study highlights the need to consider environmental variation at the larval stages to better understand transmission dynamics and control of vectorborne diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number593
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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