Targeting Mosquitoes’ Feeding Behavior: Strategies to Combat Malaria Spread

CEID members Dr. Ashutosh K. Pathak and Justine C. Shiau led a team of researchers investigating the impact of additional blood meal(s) on the development of vector-borne parasites and pathogens in mosquitoes, particularly the spread of malaria and possible control strategies to be employed in the face of rising insecticide resistance. 

The team began by propagating Plasmodium berghei (P. berghei), a strain of the malaria parasite, in mice. In order to test transmission rates, they collected blood from human, bovine, and canine sources, preparing it for mosquito feeds by separating the red blood cells and plasma through centrifugation. The team then maintained a colony of Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes fed on a diet of 5% dextrose and 0.05 para-aminobenzoic acid. In order to infect the mosquitoes with the malaria parasite, they were fed on a blood meal of P. berghei-infected mice or P. falciparum-infected human blood. They were then fed on a second blood meal from human, bovine, canine, and marine donors1. The infection status of the mosquitoes was monitored through quantification of the density of parasites in the mosquito’s salivary glands. 

The study determined that mosquitoes that feed on both human and non-human animals are more likely to transmit malaria to humans. This suggests that vector ecology has a clear influence on malaria transmission, shedding further light on the complex interplay of vector-borne diseases like malaria and mosquitoes’ feeding behavior. Understanding this relationship is of paramount importance, as it can help policymakers and health authorities develop more effective strategies to combat malaria and other vector-borne diseases. 

The authors make a number of suggestions toward combating this public health concern . One method would be to standardize the use of endectocides, such as ivermectin, in order to reduce infection rates in non-human animals commonly fed upon by mosquitoes. The use of anticoagulants, such as Citrate-Dextrose or ACD, also show promise. Ultimately, the authors suggest that their results further emphasize the need to adopt a One Health approach that considers the interactions between human, animal, and environmental health in the design of control programs. 

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Raymond Gabriel Schneider

[1] All experiments were approved by the University of Georgia’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee GA under Animal Use Protocol number A2020 01-013-Y2-A3.