Research Highlights: Mosquito and Malaria Parasite Are In A Mutualistic Relationship


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An Anopheles stephensi mosquito. Jim Gathany, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mosquito and Malaria Parasite Are In A Mutualistic Relationship

November 20, 2021

  • Anopheles is a genus of mosquito known to transmit the parasite Plasmodium that causes the disease malaria.
  • Malaria is one of the most harmful diseases in humans and can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, and even death in severe cases.[1]
  • Malaria is transmitted when a mosquito becomes infected after biting an infected person, and then the infected mosquito bites a non-infected person.[2]
  • The evolutionary success of this transmission has been the long-term focus of debate and research study.
  • Researchers performed analysis to determine the effect of Plasmodium infection on the physiology of mosquito’s head, sensory appendages, and salivary glands.
  • Researchers compared the infected mosquitoes with the non-infected mosquitoes.
  • The result suggests that Plasmodium-infected mosquitoes had an increased sense of smell which can improve their ability to seek a host.
  • Additionally, Plasmodium-infected mosquitoes bear the hallmark of a younger, more reproduction-active insect.
  • The long-held thought that the Plasmodium causes disease in mosquitoes is now in question.
  • Data suggest that there are advantages for the mosquito that drives the conservation of its high transmission capability.

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Sources:

Carr, A.L., Rinker, D.C., Dong, Y. et al. Transcriptome profiles of Anopheles gambiae harboring natural low-level Plasmodium infection reveal adaptive advantages for the mosquito. Sci Rep 11, 22578 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-01842-x

[1] Caraballo H, King K (May 2014). “Emergency department management of mosquito-borne illness: malaria, dengue, and West Nile virus”. Emergency Medicine Practice. 16 (5): 1–23, quiz 23–4. PMID 25207355. Archived from the original on 2016-08-01.

[2] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/malaria/multimedia/malaria-transmission-cycle/img-20006373

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