Are malaria parasites adapting to mosquito feeding times?

Are malaria parasites adapting to mosquito feeding times?
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Research shows that malaria parasites have evolved to become most infectious during the feeding times of mosquitos.

According to a study conducted by scientists from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in order to maximise the chance of being spread, malaria parasites have adapted to be far more infectious during mosquito feeding time.

The adaptation of malaria parasites

Individuals with malaria typically experience regular bouts of fever, which supports these findings. The fever occurs when the parasites that cause malaria replicate in the bloodstream of infected individuals, in preparation for being picked up by a biting mosquito.

The increasing use of bednets being used by individuals in affected regions, has driven mosquitos to feed during the day. Therefore, malaria parasites have adapted their behaviour to be better abled to spread infection in the daytime, according to research suggestions.

The scientists from the University of Edinburgh studied daily rhythms of malaria parasites and the mosquitoes that spread them.

Details of the study

The investigation was conducted with mice, whereby scientists used light and darkness to separate and alter the day/night times of mosquitoes and malaria parasites. By feeding some insects during the day and others at night, they learned how both the parasites’ ability to cause infection – and the mosquitoes’ vulnerability to disease – varied depending on the time of day.

The results showed that cycles of fever in malaria infection likely evolved to produce forms of the parasite that are infectious to mosquitoes in sync with the insects’ feeding cycles. They also showed that mosquitoes are more susceptible to infection in the daytime.
This study is the first to provide robust evidence for this idea, which was first suggested 50 years ago.

Dr Petra Schneider, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “It has long been suspected that malaria parasites time their replication to maximise their chance of transmission by mosquitoes.”

“Our findings lend valuable insight into how this disease spreads, and could inform measures to control it.”

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