Local Adaptation and Vector-Mediated Population Structure in Plasmodium vivax Malaria

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Plasmodium vivax in southern Mexico exhibits different infectivities to 2 local mosquito vectors, Anopheles pseudopunctipennis and Anopheles albimanus. Previous work has tied these differences in mosquito infectivity to variation in the central repeat motif of the malaria parasite's circumsporozoite (csp) gene, but subsequent studies have questioned this view. Here we present evidence that P. vivax in southern Mexico comprised 3 genetic populations whose distributions largely mirror those of the 2 mosquito vectors. Additionally, laboratory colony feeding experiments indicate that parasite populations are most compatible with sympatric mosquito species. Our results suggest that reciprocal selection between malaria parasites and mosquito vectors has led to local adaptation of the parasite. Adaptation to local vectors may play an important role in generating population structure in Plasmodium. A better understanding of coevolutionary dynamics between sympatric mosquitoes and parasites will facilitate the identification of molecular mechanisms relevant to disease transmission in nature and provide crucial information for malaria control.

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