Tracing Pathogen Transmission by Mosquitoes under a Global Change Perspective: On the Role of the Identification of Mosquito Bloodmeals


Mosquitoes play a central role in the transmission of vector‐borne pathogens causing important diseases in humans, livestock and wildlife. The identification of mosquito blood feeding preferences represents an essential step in epidemiological studies to identify the potential reservoirs and the contact rates between infective and susceptible hosts. Different methods have been used to trace mosquito bloodmeal origins in ecology and public health studies providing valuable results. These studies are specially relevant under a global change scenario, where habitat alteration and changes in the distribution of the ecological community of mosquitoes could affect the dynamics of transmission of mosquito‐borne pathogens.

Key Concepts

  • Mosquitoes play a central role in the transmission of many vector‐borne pathogens.
  • Environmental conditions determine the mosquito community structure in the area, potentially affecting the dynamics of transmission of vector‐borne pathogens.
  • Female mosquitoes feed on blood to obtain resources for egg development.
  • The bloodmeals of mosquitoes provide a valuable source of genetic material allowing the identification of vertebrate species origin even to the level of individuals host and the pathogens interacting with them.
  • Integrating information on the feeding patterns of mosquitoes into epidemiological models contributes to identifying the risk of transmission of vector‐borne pathogens to human and other animals.

Keywords: Aedes; Culex; blood‐sucking insects; Flavivirus; humans; vector‐borne pathogens; West Nile virus

Figure 1. Aedes female mosquito biting on a human hand. Aedes mosquitoes are important vectors of pathogens affecting people including Dengue virus, Chikungunya virus and Zika virus.
Figure 2. Recently engorged female mosquitoes of the species Ochlerotatus (Aedes) caspius resting after biting on a vertebrate host.
Figure 3. Success of host identification of mosquito females according to the Sella stage of bloodmeal digestion status and the method of DNA isolation (black columns: QIAGEN DNeasy Blood and Tissue®, grey colums: HotSHOT procedure). Source: Data from Martínez‐de la Puente et al. .
Figure 4. Percentage of mosquito bloodmeals derived from humans (black), horses (green), other mammals (blue), reptiles (grey) and birds (red) for the six most common mosquito species sampled in southern Spain. Sample sizes are shown above bars. Source: Data from Alcaide et al. ; Muñoz et al. ; Roiz et al. ; Martínez‐de la Puente et al. , , .


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Further Reading

Gómez‐Díaz E and Figuerola J (2010) New perspectives in tracing vector‐borne interaction networks. Trends in Parasitology 26: 470–476.

Lehane MJ (2005) The Biology of Blood‐sucking in Insects. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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Merino S, Puente J (2010). Reproductive strategies of the malaria parasite. In eLS, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. doi:10.1002/9780470015902.a0022860

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la Puente, Josué Martínez‐de, Ferraguti, Martina, Ruiz, Santiago, Montalvo, Tomás, Casimiro Soriguer, Ramón, and Figuerola, Jordi(Sep 2018) Tracing Pathogen Transmission by Mosquitoes under a Global Change Perspective: On the Role of the Identification of Mosquito Bloodmeals. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0028179]