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  1. Abstract Background

    Plasmodiumparasites that cause bird malaria occur in all continents except Antarctica and are primarily transmitted by mosquitoes in the genusCulex.Culex quinquefasciatus, the mosquito vector of avian malaria in Hawaiʻi, became established in the islands in the 1820s. While the deadly effects of malaria on endemic bird species have been documented for many decades, vector-parasite interactions in avian malaria systems are relatively understudied.

    Methods

    To evaluate the gene expression response of mosquitoes exposed to aPlasmodiuminfection intensity known to occur naturally in Hawaiʻi, offspring of wild-collected HawaiianCx. quinquefasciatuswere fed on a domestic canary infected with a fresh isolate ofPlasmodium relictumGRW4 from a wild-caught Hawaiian honeycreeper. Control mosquitoes were fed on an uninfected canary. Transcriptomes of five infected and three uninfected individual mosquitoes were sequenced at each of three stages of the parasite life cycle: 24 h post feeding (hpf) during ookinete invasion; 5 days post feeding (dpf) when oocysts are developing; 10 dpf when sporozoites are released and invade the salivary glands.

    Results

    Differential gene expression analyses showed that during ookinete invasion (24 hpf), genes related to oxidoreductase activity and galactose catabolism had lower expression levels in infected mosquitoes compared to controls. Oocyst development (5 dpf) was associated with reduced expression of a gene with a predicted innate immune function. At 10 dpf, infected mosquitoes had reduced expression levels of a serine protease inhibitor, and further studies should assess its role as aPlasmodiumagonist inC. quinquefasciatus. Overall, the differential gene expression response of HawaiianCulexexposed to aPlasmodiuminfection intensity known to occur naturally in Hawaiʻi was low, but more pronounced during ookinete invasion.

    Conclusions

    This is the first analysis of the transcriptional responses of vectors to malaria parasites in non-mammalian systems. Interestingly, few similarities were found between the response ofCulexinfected with a birdPlasmodiumand those reported inAnophelesinfected with humanPlasmodium. The relatively small transcriptional changes observed in mosquito genes related to immune response and nutrient metabolism support conclusions of low fitness costs often documented in experimental challenges ofCulexwith avianPlasmodium.

     
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  2. Abstract Delimiting and describing Plasmodium species in reptiles remains a pressing problem in Haemosporida taxonomy. The few morphological characters used can overlap, and the significance of some life-history traits is not fully understood. Morphologically identical lizard Plasmodium forms have been reported infecting different cell types (red and white blood cells) in the same host and have been considered the same species. An example is Plasmodium tropiduri tropiduri , a species known to infect erythrocytes, thrombocytes and lymphocyte-like cells. Here, both forms of P. t. tropiduri were analysed using light microscope-based morphological characteristics and phylogenetic inferences based on almost complete mitochondrial genomes of parasites naturally infecting lizards in southeastern Brazil. Although morphologically similar, two distinct phylogenetic lineages infecting erythrocytes and non-erythrocytic cells were found. The lineage found in the erythrocytes forms a monophyletic group with species from Colombia. However, the non-erythrocytic lineage shares a recent common ancestor with Plasmodium leucocytica , which infects leucocytes in lizards from the Caribbean islands. Here, Plasmodium ouropretensis n. sp. is described as a species that infects thrombocytes and lymphocyte-like cells. 
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  3. Abstract

    An infestation of cat fleas in a research center led to the detection of two genotypes ofCtenocephalides felisbiting humans in New Jersey, USA. The rarer flea genotype had an 83% incidence ofRickettsia asembonensis, a recently described bacterium closely related toR. felis,a known human pathogen. A metagenomics analysis developed in under a week recovered the entireR. asembonensisgenome at high coverage and matched it to identical or almost identical (> 99% similarity) strains reported worldwide. Our study exposes the potential of cat fleas as vectors of human pathogens in crowded northeastern U.S, cities and suburbs where free-ranging cats are abundant. Furthermore, it demonstrates the power of metagenomics to glean large amounts of comparative data regarding both emerging vectors and their pathogens.

     
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  4. Abstract Aim

    Macroecological analyses provide valuable insights into factors that influence how parasites are distributed across space and among hosts. Amid large uncertainties that arise when generalizing from local and regional findings, hierarchical approaches applied to global datasets are required to determine whether drivers of parasite infection patterns vary across scales. We assessed global patterns of haemosporidian infections across a broad diversity of avian host clades and zoogeographical realms to depict hotspots of prevalence and to identify possible underlying drivers.

    Location

    Global.

    Time period

    1994–2019.

    Major taxa studied

    Avian haemosporidian parasites (generaPlasmodium,Haemoproteus,LeucocytozoonandParahaemoproteus).

    Methods

    We amalgamated infection data from 53,669 individual birds representing 2,445 species world‐wide. Spatio‐phylogenetic hierarchical Bayesian models were built to disentangle potential landscape, climatic and biotic drivers of infection probability while accounting for spatial context and avian host phylogenetic relationships.

    Results

    Idiosyncratic responses of the three most common haemosporidian genera to climate, habitat, host relatedness and host ecological traits indicated marked variation in host infection rates from local to global scales. Notably, host ecological drivers, such as migration distance forPlasmodiumandParahaemoproteus, exhibited predominantly varying or even opposite effects on infection rates across regions, whereas climatic effects on infection rates were more consistent across realms. Moreover, infections in some low‐prevalence realms were disproportionately concentrated in a few local hotspots, suggesting that regional‐scale variation in habitat and microclimate might influence transmission, in addition to global drivers.

    Main conclusions

    Our hierarchical global analysis supports regional‐scale findings showing the synergistic effects of landscape, climate and host ecological traits on parasite transmission for a cosmopolitan and diverse group of avian parasites. Our results underscore the need to account for such interactions, in addition to possible variation in drivers across regions, to produce the robust inference required to predict changes in infection risk under future scenarios.

     
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