First Evidence and Predictions of Plasmodium Transmission in Alaskan Bird Populations

By February 11, 2015Avian malaria, Workgroup 1

Author(s): Claire Loiseau, Ryan J. Harrigan, Anthony J. Cornel, Sue L. Guers, Molly Dodge, Timothy Marzec, Jenny S. Carlson, Bruce Seppi, Ravinder N. M. Sehgal

Publication: PLOS One

Publication Date: 2014

Abstract: The unprecedented rate of change in the Arctic climate is expected to have major impacts on the emergence of infectious diseases and host susceptibility to these diseases. It is predicted that malaria parasites will spread to both higher altitudes and latitudes with global warming. Here we show for the first time that avian Plasmodium transmission occurs in the North American Arctic. Over a latitudinal gradient in Alaska, from 61uN to 67uN, we collected blood samples of resident and migratory bird species. We found both residents and hatch year birds infected with Plasmodium as far north as 64uN, providing clear evidence that malaria transmission occurs in these climates. Based on our empirical data, we make the first projections of the habitat suitability for Plasmodium under a future-warming scenario in Alaska. These findings raise new concerns about the spread of malaria to naïve host populations.

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