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01.12.2017 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

Malaria Journal 1/2017

Avian Plasmodium in Eastern Austrian mosquitoes

Malaria Journal > Ausgabe 1/2017
Ellen Schoener, Sarah Susanne Uebleis, Julia Butter, Michaela Nawratil, Claudia Cuk, Eva Flechl, Michael Kothmayer, Adelheid G. Obwaller, Thomas Zechmeister, Franz Rubel, Karin Lebl, Carina Zittra, Hans-Peter Fuehrer
Wichtige Hinweise
Ellen Schoener and Sarah Susanne Uebleis contributed equally to this work



Insect vectors, namely mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae), are compulsory for malaria parasites (Plasmodium spp.) to complete their life cycle. Despite this, little is known about vector competence of different mosquito species for the transmission of avian malaria parasites.


In this study, nested PCR was used to determine Plasmodium spp. occurrence in pools of whole individuals, as well as the diversity of mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences in wild-caught mosquitoes sampled across Eastern Austria in 2013–2015.


A total of 45,749 mosquitoes in 2628 pools were collected, of which 169 pools (6.43%) comprising 9 mosquito species were positive for avian Plasmodium, with the majority of positives in mosquitoes of Culex pipiens s.l./Culex torrentium. Six different avian Plasmodium lineages were found, the most common were Plasmodium vaughani SYAT05, Plasmodium sp. Linn1 and Plasmodium relictum SGS1. In 2014, mosquitoes of the Culex pipiens complex were genetically identified and Culex pipiens f. pipiens presented with the highest number of avian Plasmodium positives (n = 37; 16.74%). Despite this, the minimum infection rate (MIR) was highest in Culex torrentium (5.36%) and Culex pipiens f. pipiens/f. molestus hybrids (5.26%). During 2014 and 2015, seasonal and annual changes in Plasmodium lineage distribution were also observed. In both years P. vaughani SYAT05 dominated at the beginning of the sampling period to be replaced later in the year by P. relictum SGS1 (2014) and Plasmodium sp. Linn1 (2015).


This is the first large-scale study of avian Plasmodium parasites in Austrian mosquitoes. These results are of special interest, because molecular identification of the taxa of the Cx. pipiens complex and Cx. torrentium enabled the determination of Plasmodium prevalence in the different mosquito taxa and hybrids of this complex. Since pools of whole insects were used, it is not possible to assert any vector competence in any of the examined mosquitoes, but the results are nonetheless valuable in providing an overview of avian Plasmodium species and lineages present in Austria.
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