The unexpected importance of mosquito oviposition behaviour for malaria: Non-productive larval habitats can be sources for malaria transmission

Arnaud Le Menach, F. Ellis McKenzie, Antoine Flahault, David L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Mosquitoes commute between blood-meal hosts and water. Thus, heterogeneity in human biting reflects underlying spatial heterogeneity in the distribution and suitability of larval habitat as well as inherent differences in the attractiveness, suitability and distribution of blood-meal hosts. One of the possible strategies of malaria control is to identify local vector species and then attack water bodies that contain their larvae. Methods: Biting and host seeking, not oviposition, have been the focus of most previous studies of mosquitoes and malaria transmission. This study presents a mathematical model that incorporates mosquito oviposition behaviour. Results: The model demonstrates that oviposition is one potential factor explaining heterogeneous biting and vector distribution in a landscape with a heterogeneous distribution of larval habitat. Adult female mosquitoes tend to aggregate around places where they oviposit, thereby increasing the risk of malaria, regardless of the suitability of the habitat for larval development. Thus, a water body may be unsuitable for adult mosquito emergence, but simultaneously, be a source for human malaria. Conclusion: Larval density may be a misleading indicator of a habitat's importance for malaria control. Even if mosquitoes could be lured to oviposit in sprayed larval habitats, this would not necessarily mitigate - and might aggravate - the risk of malaria transmission. Forcing mosquitoes to fly away from humans in search of larval habitat may be a more efficient way to reduce the risk of malaria than killing larvae. Thus, draining, fouling, or filling standing water where mosquitoes oviposit can be more effective than applying larvicide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number23
JournalMalaria journal
Volume4
DOIs
StatePublished - May 13 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases

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