Molecular detection of vector-borne pathogens from mosquitoes collected in two zoological gardens in Germany

Parasitol Res. 2019 Jul;118(7):2097-2105. doi: 10.1007/s00436-019-06327-5. Epub 2019 Jun 1.


In Germany, knowledge of disease agents transmitted by arthropods in zoological gardens is scarce. In the framework of ecological studies, mosquitoes were therefore collected in German zoological gardens and examined for mosquito-borne pathogen DNA and RNA. In total, 3840 mosquitoes were screened for filarial nematodes and three groups of viruses (orthobunyaviruses, flaviviruses, alphaviruses) while 405 mosquitoes were tested for avian malaria parasites. In addition to the filarial nematode species Dirofilaria repens (n = 1) and Setaria tundra (n = 8), Sindbis virus (n = 1) and the haemosporidian genera Haemoproteus (n = 8), Leucocytozoon (n = 10) and Plasmodium (n = 1) were demonstrated. Identified pathogens have the potential to cause disease in zoo and wild animals, but some of them also in humans. Positive mosquitoes were collected most often in July, indicating the highest infection risk during this month. Most of the pathogens were found in mosquito specimens of the Culex pipiens complex, suggesting that its members possibly act as the most important vectors in the surveyed zoos, although the mere demonstration of pathogen DNA/RNA in a homogenised complete mosquito is not finally indicative for a vector role. Outcomes of the study are not only significant for arthropod management in zoological gardens, but also for the general understanding of the occurrence and spread of mosquito-borne disease agents.

Keywords: Avian malaria; Dirofilaria; Haemoproteus; Leucocytozoon; Plasmodium; Sindbis virus.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Culex / parasitology
  • Culicidae / parasitology*
  • Female
  • Filarioidea / classification*
  • Filarioidea / genetics
  • Filarioidea / isolation & purification
  • Gardens
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Haemosporida / classification*
  • Haemosporida / genetics
  • Haemosporida / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Avian / epidemiology
  • Malaria, Avian / parasitology*
  • Malaria, Avian / transmission
  • Mosquito Vectors / parasitology*
  • Plasmodium / classification*
  • Plasmodium / genetics
  • Plasmodium / isolation & purification