Background: The current status of insecticide resistance and the underlying resistance mechanisms were studied in the major vector of malaria, Anopheles culicifacies, and the secondary vector, Anopheles subpictus in five districts (Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, Moneragala, Puttalam and Trincomalee) of Sri Lanka. Eight other anophelines, Anopheles annularis, Anopheles barbirostris, Anopheles jamesii, Anopheles nigerrimus, Anopheles peditaeniatus, Anopheles tessellatus, Anopheles vagus and Anopheles varuna from Anuradhapura district were also tested.
Methods: Adult females were exposed to the WHO discriminating dosages of DDT, malathion, fenitrothion, propoxur, lambda-cyhalothrin, cyfluthrin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, permethrin and etofenprox. The presence of metabolic resistance by esterase, glutathione S-transferase (GST) and monooxygenase-based mechanisms, and the sensitivity of the acetylcholinesterase target site were assessed using synergists, and biochemical, and metabolic techniques.
Results: All the anopheline species had high DDT resistance. All An. culicifacies and An. subpictus populations were resistant to malathion, except An. culicifacies from Kurunegala, where there was no malathion carboxylesterase activity. Kurunegala and Puttalam populations of An. culicifacies were susceptible to fenitrothion. All the An. culicifacies populations were susceptible to carbamates. Both species were susceptible to the discriminating dosages of cypermethrin and cyfluthrin, but had different levels of resistance to other pyrethroids. Of the 8 other anophelines, only An. nigerrimus and An. peditaeniatus were resistant to all the insecticides tested, probably due to their high exposure to the insecticides used in agriculture. An. vagus showed some resistance to permethrin.Esterases, GSTs and monooxygenases were elevated in both An. culicifacies and An. subpictus. AChE was most sensitive to insecticides in Kurunegala and Trincomalee An. culicifacies populations and highly insensitive in the Trincomalee An. subpictus population.
Conclusion: The complexity of the resistance segregating in these field populations underlines the need for new molecular tools to identify the genomic diversity, differential upregulation and different binding specificities of resistance conferring genes, and the presence of different subspecies with different vectorial capacities.