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Dynamics of prevalence and diversity of avian malaria infections in wild Culex pipiens mosquitoes: the effects of Wolbachia, filarial nematodes and insecticide resistance

Zélé, Flore, Vézilier, Juilen, L’Ambert, Gregory, Nicot, Antoine, Gandon, Sylvain, Rivero, Ana, Duron, Olivier
Parasites & vectors 2014 v.7 no.1 pp. 437
Culex pipiens, Haemoproteus, Nematoda, Plasmodium, Wolbachia, avian malaria, birds, disease transmission, insecticide resistance, mixed infection, models, parasites, polymerase chain reaction, population dynamics, France
BACKGROUND: Identifying the parasites transmitted by a particular vector and the factors that render this vector susceptible to the parasite are key steps to understanding disease transmission. Although avian malaria has become a model system for the investigation of the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of Plasmodium parasites, little is still known about the field prevalence, diversity and distribution of avian Plasmodium species within the vectors, or about the extrinsic factors affecting Plasmodium population dynamics in the wild. METHODS: We examined changes in avian malaria prevalence and Plasmodium lineage composition in female Culex pipiens caught throughout one field season in 2006, across four sampling sites in southern France. Using site occupancy models, we correct the naive estimates of Plasmodium prevalence to account for PCR-based imperfect detection. To establish the importance of different factors that may bear on the prevalence and diversity of avian Plasmodium in field mosquitoes, we focus on Wolbachia and filarial parasite co-infections, as well as on the insecticide resistance status of the mosquito. RESULTS: Plasmodium prevalence in Cx. pipiens increased from February (0%) to October (15.8%) and did not vary significantly among the four sampling sites. The application of site occupancy models leads to a 4% increase in this initial (naive) estimate of prevalence. The parasite community was composed of 15 different haemosporidian lineages, 13 of which belonged to the Plasmodium genus, and 2 to the Haemoproteus genus. Neither the presence of different Wolbachia types and of filarial parasites co-infecting the mosquitoes, nor their insecticide resistance status were found to affect the Plasmodium prevalence and diversity. CONCLUSION: We found that haemosporidian parasites are common and diverse in wild-caught Cx. pipiens mosquitoes in Southern France. The prevalence of the infection in mosquitoes is unaffected by Wolbachia and filarial co-infections as well as the insecticide resistant status of the vector. These factors may thus have a negligible impact on the transmission of avian malaria. In contrast, the steady increase in prevalence from February to October indicates that the dynamics of avian malaria is driven by seasonality and supports that infected birds are the reservoir of a diverse community of lineages in southern France.