The direct negative effects of invasive plant species on agriculture and biodiversity are well known, but their indirect effects on human health, and particularly their interactions with disease-transmitting vectors, remains poorly explored. This study sought to investigate the impact of the invasive Neotropical weed Parthenium hysterophorus and its toxins on the survival and energy reserves of the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae. In this study, we compared the fitness of An. gambiae fed on three differentially attractive mosquito host plants and their major toxins; the highly aggressive invasive Neotropical weed Parthenium hysterophorus (Asteraceae) in East Africa and two other adapted weeds, Ricinus communis (Euphorbiaceae) and Bidens pilosa (Asteraceae). Our results showed that female An. gambiae fitness varied with host plants as females survived better and accumulated substantial energy reserves when fed on P. hysterophorus and R. communis compared to B. pilosa. Females tolerated parthenin and 1-phenylhepta-1, 3, 5-triyne, the toxins produced by P. hysterophorus and B. pilosa, respectively, but not ricinine produced by R. communis. Given that invasive plants like P. hysterophorus can suppress or even replace less competitive species that might be less suitable host-plants for arthropod disease vectors, the spread of invasive plants could lead to higher disease transmission. Parthenium hysterophorus represents a possible indirect effect of invasive plants on human health, which underpins the need to include an additional health dimension in risk-analysis modelling for invasive plants.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)