Ecology of Mosquito Vectors in Relation to Avian Malaria in Zoological Gardens in the United Kingdom

Hernandez Colina, Arturo
(2019) Ecology of Mosquito Vectors in Relation to Avian Malaria in Zoological Gardens in the United Kingdom. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Avian malaria is one of the most serious diseases in penguins under human care and could become a severe threat to the conservation of vulnerable wild populations. It is caused by the Haemosporidia parasites of the genus Plasmodium and needs a mosquito vector for its transmission. We captured mosquitoes during two years in Chester Zoo (Cheshire) and one year in Flamingo Land (Yorkshire); both zoos house Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti). The mosquito temporal and spatial abundance across the seasons and sites were analysed. It was found that Culex pipiens, the principal avian malaria vector in Europe, was the most abundant species. There was a peak in the mosquito abundance during the summer as expected, but it was at different months between sites and years. The abundance of mosquitoes also varied among sampling areas; one area in Chester Zoo captured a greater proportion of mosquitoes than the others in both years, and in Flamingo Land, we also found an area with consistent high catches. Blood-fed mosquitoes were captured and analysed to identify the host on which they had fed. Different proportions of blood-fed mosquitoes were captured by areas and months; more were collected during the summer and in certain areas that not in all cases were related to a high abundance of un-fed mosquitoes. Most of these mosquitoes were Culex pipiens and Culiseta annulata; it was confirmed that the first one prefers to feed on birds and the second one on non-human mammals. However, many Culex pipiens fed on humans, which alert us about the possible nuisance for visitors and the potential transmission risk of zoonotic diseases. A partially identified Culicinae mosquito, likely to be Culex pipiens, and an Anopheles maculipennis s. l. fed on penguins; so, they could be involved in avian malaria transmission. It was found that mosquitoes travel variable distance after feeding and therefore, the control measures against mosquitoes should cover more than the areas of immediate concern. The environmental variables were analysed to understand the drivers of the diverse mosquito captures. The temperature was the most important variable related to mosquito abundance, and the dense vegetation, proximity to mosquito oviposition sites and closeness to animal exhibits were also significant. Therefore, the temperature could guide actions for mosquito control and avian malaria prevention and avoiding those surrounding features near the penguin exhibits could prevent high densities of mosquitoes. Many aspects of avian malaria epidemiology are uncertain so, through an online survey, the knowledge of the staff in zoos and wildlife parks about the disease was gathered. It was found that avian malaria had affected penguins in more than half of the answering institutions, involving mainly Humboldt and African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) with high lethality rates; therefore, efforts on preventive actions are encouraged. Avian malaria parasites were found in Culex pipiens mosquitoes and their saliva, wild birds and penguins, suggesting that the transmission process happens locally. Mosquito populations are dynamic, and the biosurveillance of their populations is needed to better understand their role as disease vectors and to implement effective control measures at the right time, assisting in this way the prevention of avian malaria in captive penguins.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 13:04
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2021 08:14
DOI: 10.17638/03084785