Genetic influences on mosquito feeding behavior and the emergence of zoonotic pathogens

A. Marm Kilpatrick, Laura D. Kramer, Matthew J. Jones, Peter P. Marra, Peter Daszak, Dina M. Fonseca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


The feeding behavior of vectors influences the likelihood of pathogen invasion and the exposure of humans to vector-borne zoonotic pathogens. We used multilocus microsatellite genetic typing of an introduced mosquito vector and DNA sequencing of mosquito blood meals to determine the impact of hybrid ancestry on feeding behavior and the emergence of West Nile virus (WNV). The probability of ancestry of Culex pipiens mosquitoes from two bionomically divergent forms, form molestus and form pipiens, influenced the probability that they fed on humans but did not explain a late summer feeding shift from birds to humans. We used a simple model to show that the occurrence of pure form molestus mosquitoes would have decreased the likelihood of WNV invasion (R 0 in bird populations) 3- to 8-fold, whereas the occurrence of pure forms pipiens mosquitoes would have halved human exposure compared with the hybrids that are present. Data and modeling suggest that feeding preferences may be influenced by genetic ancestry and contribute to the emergence of vector-borne pathogens transmitted by introduced species, including malaria, and dengue, Chikungunya, yellow fever, and West Nile viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-671
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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