Malaria, a major cause of child mortality in Africa, is engendered by Plasmodium parasites that are transmitted by anopheline mosquitoes. Fitness of Plasmodium parasites is closely linked to the ecology and evolution of its anopheline vector. However, whether the genetic structure of vector populations impacts malaria transmission remains unknown. Here, we describe a partitioning of the African malaria vectors into generalists and specialists that evolve along ecological boundaries. We next identify the contribution of mosquito species to Plasmodium abundance using Granger causality tests for time-series data collected over two rainy seasons in Mali. We find that mosquito microevolution, defined by changes in the genetic structure of a population over short ecological timescales, drives Plasmodium dynamics in nature, whereas vector abundance, infection prevalence, temperature and rain have low predictive values. Our study demonstrates the power of time-series approaches in vector biology and highlights the importance of focusing local vector control strategies on mosquito species that drive malaria dynamics.
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The full-length TEP1 and TEP1–TED sequences are available at the NCBI GenBank under accession numbers MF098568 to MF098592 and MF035727 to MF035924, respectively. The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.
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We thank A. Telschow, F. Grziwotz and S. F. Traore for helpful suggestions; L. Spohr, S. Koppitz, D. Coulibaly, M. Coulibaly, C. Omogo, J. Shikaya, L. Abate, E. Onana, J. P. Agbor, J. Mwaura and A. Gildenhard for technical support; and M. Doumbia, B. Doumbia and C. Okech for their help with sample collections. This research was supported by funds from EC FP7 under grant agreements N°223601 (MALVECBLOK) and N°242095 (EVIMalar). E.K.R. was a DAAD fellow.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Gildenhard, M., Rono, E.K., Diarra, A. et al. Mosquito microevolution drives Plasmodium falciparum dynamics. Nat Microbiol 4, 941–947 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41564-019-0414-9