Royal Society Publishing

The energetic budget of Anopheles stephensi infected with Plasmodium chabaudi: is energy depletion a mechanism for virulence?

A. Rivero , H. M. Ferguson

Abstract

Evidence continues to accumulate showing that the malaria parasites (Plasmodium spp.) reduce the survival and fecundity of their mosquito vectors (Anopheles spp.). Our ability to identify the possible epidemiological and evolutionary consequences of these parasite–induced fitness reductions has been hampered by a poor understanding of the physiological basis of these shifts. Here, we explore whether the reductions in fecundity and longevity are the result of a parasite–mediated depletion or reallocation of the energetic resources of the mosquito. Mosquitoes infected with Plasmodium chabaudi were expected to have less energetic resources than uninfected mosquitoes, and energy levels were predicted to be lowest in mosquitoes infected with the most virulent parasite genotypes. Not only was there no evidence of a parasite–mediated reduction in the overall energetic budget of mosquitoes, but Plasmodium was actually associated with increased levels of glucose, a key insect nutritional and energetic resource. The data strongly suggest the existence of an increase in sugar feeding in mosquitoes infected with Plasmodium. We suggest different adaptive explanations for an enhanced sugar uptake in infected mosquitoes and call for more studies to investigate the physiological role of glucose in the Plasmodium–mosquito interaction.

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