Larval food quantity affects the capacity of adult mosquitoes to transmit human malaria

Lillian L.M. Shapiro, Courtney C. Murdock, Gregory R. Jacobs, Rachel J. Thomas, Matthew B. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Adult traits of holometabolous insects are shaped by conditions experienced during larval development, which might impact interactions between adult insect hosts and parasites. However, the ecology of larval insects that vector disease remains poorly understood. Here, we used Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes and the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, to investigate whether larval conditions affect the capacity of adult mosquitoes to transmit malaria. We reared larvae in two groups; one group received a standard laboratory rearing diet, whereas the other received a reduced diet. Emerging adult females were then provided an infectious blood meal. We assessed mosquito longevity, parasite development rate and prevalence of infectious mosquitoes over time. Reduced larval food led to increased adult mortality and caused a delay in parasite development and a slowing in the rate at which parasites invaded the mosquito salivary glands, extending the time it took for mosquitoes to become infectious. Together, these effects increased transmission potential of mosquitoes in the high food regime by 260–330%. Such effects have not, to our knowledge, been shown previously for human malaria and highlight the importance of improving knowledge of larval ecology to better understand vector-borne disease transmission dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20160298
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1834
StatePublished - Jul 13 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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