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Evidence of Culiseta mosquitoes as vectors for Plasmodium parasites in Alaska

May 23, 2019

Mosquito vectors play a crucial role in the distribution of avian Plasmodium parasites worldwide. At northern latitudes, where climate warming is most pronounced, there are questions about possible changes in the abundance and distribution of Plasmodium parasites, their vectors, and their impacts to avian hosts. To better understand the transmission of Plasmodium among local birds and to gather baseline data on potential vectors, we sampled a total of 3,909 mosquitoes from three locations in south‐central Alaska during the summer of 2016. We screened mosquitoes for the presence of Plasmodium parasites using molecular techniques and estimated Plasmodium infection rates per 1,000 mosquitoes using maximum likelihood methods. We found low estimated infection rates across all mosquitoes (1.28 per 1,000), with significantly higher rates in Culiseta mosquitoes (7.91 per 1,000) than in Aedes mosquitoes (0.57 per 1,000). We detected Plasmodium in a single head/thorax sample of Culiseta, indicating potential for transmission of these parasites by mosquitoes of this genus. Plasmodium parasite DNA isolated from mosquitoes showed a 100% identity match to the BT7 Plasmodium lineage that has been detected in numerous avian species worldwide. Additionally, microscopic analysis of blood smears collected from black‐capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) at the same locations revealed infection by parasites preliminarily identified as Plasmodium circumflexum. Results from our study provide the first information on Plasmodium infection rates in Alaskan mosquitoes and evidence that Culiseta species may play a role in the transmission and maintenance of Plasmodium parasites in this region.

Publication Year 2019
Title Evidence of Culiseta mosquitoes as vectors for Plasmodium parasites in Alaska
DOI 10.1111/jvec.12330
Authors Matthew M. Smith, Caroline R. Van Hemert, Colleen M. Handel
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Vector Ecology
Index ID 70207844
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center