'Manipulation' without the parasite: Altered feeding behaviour of mosquitoes is not dependent on infection with malaria parasites

Lauren J. Cator, Justin George, Simon Blanford, Courtney C. Murdock, Thomas C. Baker, Andrew F. Read, Matthew B. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Previous studies have suggested that Plasmodium parasites can manipulate mosquito feeding behaviours such as probing, persistence and engorgement rate in order to enhance transmission success. Here, we broaden analysis of this 'manipulation phenotype' to consider proximate foraging behaviours, including responsiveness to host odours and host location. Using Anopheles stephensi and Plasmodium yoeliias a model system, we demonstrate that mosquitoes with early stage infections (i.e. non-infectious oocysts) exhibit reduced attraction to a human host, whereas those with late-stage infections (i.e. infectious sporozoites) exhibit increased attraction. These stage-specific changes in behaviour were paralleled by changes in the responsiveness of mosquito odourant receptors, providing a possible neurophysiological mechanism for the responses. However, we also found that both the behavioural and neurophysiological changes could be generated by immune challenge with heat-killed Escherichia coli and were thus not tied explicitly to the presence of malaria parasites. Our results support the hypothesis that the feeding behaviour of female mosquitoes is altered by Plasmodium, but question the extent to which this is owing to active manipulation by malaria parasites of host behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20130803
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1763
StatePublished - Jul 22 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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