Ecological Effects on the Dynamics of West Nile Virus and Avian Plasmodium: The Importance of Mosquito Communities and Landscape

Viruses. 2021 Jun 23;13(7):1208. doi: 10.3390/v13071208.


Humans and wildlife are at risk from certain vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and West Nile and yellow fevers. Factors linked to global change, including habitat alteration, land-use intensification, the spread of alien species, and climate change, are operating on a global scale and affect both the incidence and distribution of many vector-borne diseases. Hence, understanding the drivers that regulate the transmission of pathogens in the wild is of great importance for ecological, evolutionary, health, and economic reasons. In this literature review, we discuss the ecological factors potentially affecting the transmission of two mosquito-borne pathogens circulating naturally between birds and mosquitoes, namely, West Nile virus (WNV) and the avian malaria parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Traditionally, the study of pathogen transmission has focused only on vectors or hosts and the interactions between them, while the role of landscape has largely been ignored. However, from an ecological point of view, it is essential not only to study the interaction between each of these organisms but also to understand the environmental scenarios in which these processes take place. We describe here some of the similarities and differences in the transmission of these two pathogens and how research into both systems may facilitate a greater understanding of the dynamics of vector-borne pathogens in the wild.

Keywords: ecology; emerging and remerging diseases; haemosporidians; insect vectors; mosquito-borne pathogens; wildlife.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Culicidae / parasitology
  • Culicidae / physiology*
  • Culicidae / virology
  • Environment*
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Avian / epidemiology
  • Malaria, Avian / transmission
  • Mosquito Vectors / parasitology
  • Mosquito Vectors / physiology*
  • Mosquito Vectors / virology
  • Plasmodium / physiology*
  • Prevalence
  • West Nile Fever / epidemiology
  • West Nile Fever / transmission
  • West Nile virus / physiology*