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Population Dynamics and Evolution of Mosquitoes that Transmit Malaria

Funding or Partner Organisation: National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC Project Grant starting in 2000)

Start year: 2000

Summary: The southwest Pacific has the highest malaria attack rates outside Africa but the biodiversity of the Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria in this region is poorly understood. Moreover, the knowledge on which Anopheles mosquitoes - from the many different species - are transmitting malaria is unknown. This is because different mosquito species can look the same.Their identification requires DNA-based tools (we call them cryptic mosquito species). In this project we used DNA-based tools to study these mosquitoes and identify the malaria vector species from the non-vector species and look at how their biology may contribute to their vector potential. Dr Beebe teamed up with the Australian Army Malaria Institute and used his DNA-based tools to study these mosquitoes. From this work, we now know which Anopheles species are transmitting malaria in our region. We have studied their evolution and we know where they exist because we have mapped their geographic distributions throughout the southwest Pacific. All mosquitoes were identified by their DNA and geographically mapped using global positioning technology. This important information means that many Anopheles species can be ignored in the study of malaria in the southwest Pacific. This research has produced the most detailed and accurate Anopheles distribution data published and is now being studied to better understand each species' biology in response to climate. This basic research is vital for future studies of malaria in our region by facilitating precise studies on the mosquito vectors in our region to better determine their behaviour, biology, malaria parasite burden, insecticide resistance etc. This work has also led to new studies (for each of these malaria vector species) into the genetic structure of these species' population and to better understand mosquito movement and dispersal. This knowledge is vital in the fight against malaria.

FOR Codes: Infectious Diseases, Clinical health