Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Selection of mosquito life-histories: a hidden weapon against malaria?

Ferguson, H.M.; Maire, N.; Takken, W.; Lyimo, I.N.; Briet, O.; Lindsay, S.W.; Smith, T.A.

Selection of mosquito life-histories: a hidden weapon against malaria? Thumbnail


H.M. Ferguson

N. Maire

W. Takken

I.N. Lyimo

O. Briet

T.A. Smith


Background: There has recently been a substantial decline in malaria incidence in much of Africa. While the decline can clearly be linked to increasing coverage of mosquito vector control interventions and effective drug treatment in most settings, the ubiquity of reduction raises the possibility that additional ecological and associated evolutionary changes may be reinforcing the effectiveness of current vector control strategies in previously unanticipated ways. Presentation of hypothesis: Here it is hypothesized that the increasing coverage of insecticide-treated bed nets and other vector control methods may be driving selection for a shift in mosquito life history that reduces their ability to transmit malaria parasites. Specifically it is hypothesized that by substantially increasing the extrinsic rate of mortality experienced in vector populations, these interventions are creating a fitness incentive for mosquitoes to re-allocate their resources towards greater short-term reproduction at the expense of longer-term survival. As malaria transmission is fundamentally dependent on mosquito survival, a life history shift in this direction would greatly benefit control. Testing the hypothesis: At present, direct evaluation of this hypothesis within natural vector populations presents several logistical and methodological challenges. In the meantime, many insights can be gained from research previously conducted on wild Drosophila populations. Long-term selection experiments on these organisms suggest that increasing extrinsic mortality by a magnitude similar to that anticipated from the up-scaling of vector control measures generated an increase in their intrinsic mortality rate. Although this increase was small, a change of similar magnitude in Anopheles vector populations would be predicted to reduce malaria transmission by 80%. Implications of hypothesis: The hypothesis presented here provides a reminder that evolutionary processes induced by interventions against disease vectors may not always act to neutralize intervention effectiveness. In the search for new intervention strategies, consideration should be given to both the potential disadvantages and advantages of evolutionary processes resulting from their implementation, and attempts made to exploit those with greatest potential to enhance control.


Ferguson, H., Maire, N., Takken, W., Lyimo, I., Briet, O., Lindsay, S., & Smith, T. (2012). Selection of mosquito life-histories: a hidden weapon against malaria?. Malaria Journal, 11, Article 106.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Apr 3, 2012
Deposit Date Jul 23, 2012
Publicly Available Date Jun 24, 2014
Journal Malaria Journal
Publisher BioMed Central
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Article Number 106
Keywords Anopheles vectors, Life history evolution, Malaria, Insecticide-treated bed nets, Extrinsic mortality, Natural selection.


Published Journal Article (258 Kb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
© 2012 Ferguson et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. <br /> This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations