Research Highlights: Mosquito and Malaria Parasite Are In A Mutualistic Relationship

macro photo of a brown mosquito
Photo by Egor Kamelev on

Mosquito and Malaria Parasite Are In A Mutualistic Relationship

  • Anopheles is a genus of mosquito known to transmit the parasite Plasmodium that causes the disease malaria.
  • Malaria is one of the most harmful diseases in humans and can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, and even death in severe cases.[1]
  • Malaria is transmitted when a mosquito becomes infected after biting an infected person, and then the infected mosquito bites a non-infected person.[2]
  • The evolutionary success of this transmission has been the long-term focus of debate and research study.
  • Researchers performed analysis to determine the effect of Plasmodium infection on the physiology of mosquito’s head, sensory appendages, and salivary glands.
  • Researchers compared the infected mosquitoes with the non-infected mosquitoes.
  • The result suggests that Plasmodium-infected mosquitoes had an increased sense of smell which can improve their ability to seek a host.
  • Additionally, Plasmodium-infected mosquitoes bear the hallmark of a younger, more reproduction-active insect.
  • The long-held thought that the Plasmodium causes disease in mosquitoes is now in question.
  • Data suggest that there are advantages for the mosquito that drives the conservation of its high transmission capability.


Carr, A.L., Rinker, D.C., Dong, Y. et al. Transcriptome profiles of Anopheles gambiae harboring natural low-level Plasmodium infection reveal adaptive advantages for the mosquito. Sci Rep 11, 22578 (2021).

[1] Caraballo H, King K (May 2014). “Emergency department management of mosquito-borne illness: malaria, dengue, and West Nile virus”. Emergency Medicine Practice. 16 (5): 1–23, quiz 23–4. PMID 25207355. Archived from the original on 2016-08-01.