Background: Mosquitoes are becoming increasingly resistant to the chemical insecticides currently available for malaria vector control, spurring interest in alternative management tools. One promising technology is the use of fungal entomopathogens. Fungi have been shown to impact the potential for mosquitoes to transmit malaria by reducing mosquito longevity and altering behaviour associated with flight and host location. Additionally, fungi could impact the development of malaria parasites within the mosquito via competition for resources or effects on the mosquito immune system. This study evaluated whether co-infection or superinfection with the fungal entomopathogen Beauveria bassiana affected malaria infection progress in Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes. Methods: The study used two parasite species to examine possible effects of fungal infection at different parasite development stages. First, the rodent malaria model Plasmodium yoelii was used to explore interactions at the oocyst stage. Plasmodium yoelii produces high oocyst densities in infected mosquitoes and thus was expected to maximize host immunological and resource demands. Second, fungal interactions with mature sporozoites were evaluated by infecting mosquitoes with the human malaria species Plasmodium falciparum, which is highly efficient at invading mosquito salivary glands. Results: With P. yoelii, there was no evidence that fungal co-infection (on the same day as the blood meal) or superinfection (during a subsequent gonotrophic cycle after parasite infection) affected the proportion of mosquitoes with oocysts, the number of oocysts per infected mosquito or the number of sporozoites per oocyst. Similarly, for P. falciparum, there was no evidence that fungal infection affected sporozoite prevalence. Furthermore, there was no impact of infection with either malaria species on fungal virulence as measured by mosquito survival time. Conclusions: These results suggest that the impact of fungus on malaria control potential is limited to the well-established effects on mosquito survival and transmission behaviour. Direct or indirect interactions between fungus and malaria parasites within mosquitoes appear to have little additional influence.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases