Plasmodium prevalence across avian host species is positively associated with exposure to mosquito vectors

Matthew C.I. Medeiros, Robert E. Ricklefs, Jeffrey D. Brawn, Gabriel L. Hamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The prevalence of vector-borne parasites varies greatly across host species, and this heterogeneity has been used to relate infectious disease susceptibility to host species traits. However, a few empirical studies have directly associated vector-borne parasite prevalence with exposure to vectors across hosts. Here, we use DNA sequencing of blood meals to estimate utilization of different avian host species by Culex mosquitoes, and relate utilization by these malaria vectors to avian Plasmodium prevalence. We found that avian host species that are highly utilized as hosts by avian malaria vectors are significantly more likely to have Plasmodium infections. However, the effect was not consistent among individual Plasmodium taxa. Exposure to vector bites may therefore influence the relative number of all avian Plasmodium infections among host species, while other processes, such as parasite competition and host-parasite coevolution, delimit the host distributions of individual Plasmodium species. We demonstrate that links between avian malaria susceptibility and host traits can be conditioned by patterns of exposure to vectors. Linking vector utilization rates to host traits may be a key area of future research to understand mechanisms that produce variation in the prevalence of vector-borne pathogens among host species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1612-1620
Number of pages9
Issue number13
StatePublished - Sep 23 2015


  • Avian malaria parasites
  • Plasmodium
  • host-vector interactions
  • malaria vectors
  • mosquito feeding patterns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Infectious Diseases


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