Investigating the blood-host plasticity and dispersal of Anopheles coluzzii using a novel field-based methodology
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Background: The biting behaviour and dispersal of insect vectors in the field underlies the transmission of many diseases. Here, a novel collection methodology coupled with the molecular analysis of blood-meal sources and digestion rates is introduced with the aim of aiding the understanding of two critical and relatively understudied mosquito behaviours: plasticity in blood-host choice and vector dispersal. Results: A collection strategy utilising a transect of mosquito traps placed at 50 m intervals allowed the collection of blood-fed Anopheles coluzzii from a malaria-endemic village of southern Ghana where human host availability ranged from zero (a cattle pen), increasing until humans were the dominant host choice (the middle of the village). Blood-meal analysis using PCR showed statistically significant variation in blood-meal origins for mosquitoes collected across the 250 m transect: with decreasing trend in Bovine Blood Index (OR = 0.60 95% CI: 0.49–0.73, P < 0.01) and correspondingly, an increasing trend in Human Blood Index (OR = 1.50 95% CI: 1.05–2.16, P = 0.028) as the transect approached the village. Using qPCR, the host DNA remaining in the blood meal was quantified for field-caught mosquitoes and calibrated according to timed blood digestion in colony mosquitoes. Time since blood meal was consumed and the corresponding distance the vector was caught from its blood-host allowed the estimation of An. coluzzii dispersal rates. Within 7 hours of feeding, mosquitoes typically remained within 50 m of their blood-host but at 60 hours they had dispersed up to 250 m. Conclusions: Using this methodology the remarkably small spatial scale at which An. coluzzii blood-host choice can change was demonstrated. In addition, conducting qPCR on host blood from field-caught mosquitoes and calibrating with timed experiments with colonised mosquitoes presents a novel methodology for investigating the dispersal behaviour of vectors. Future adaptations to this novel method to make it broadly applicable to other types of setting are also discussed.
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