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Understanding mosquito host choice behaviour: a new and cost-effective method of identifying the sex of human hosts in mosquito blood meals

Understanding mosquito host choice behaviour: a new and cost-effective method of identifying the sex of human hosts in mosquito blood meals

Teltscher, Fiona, Bouvaine, Sophie ORCID: 0000-0002-0788-3243, Gibson, Gabriella, Dyer, Paul, Guest, Jennifer, Young, Stephen and Hopkins, Richard J. ORCID: 0000-0003-4935-5825 (2021) Understanding mosquito host choice behaviour: a new and cost-effective method of identifying the sex of human hosts in mosquito blood meals. Parasites & Vectors, 14:75. ISSN 1756-3305 (Online) (doi:

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Mosquito-borne diseases are a global health problem, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths/year. Pathogens are transmitted by mosquitoes taking blood from an infected host and then feeding on a new host. Monitoring mosquito host-choice behaviour can help in many aspects of vector-borne disease control. Currently, it is possible to determine the host species and the individual human host using genotyping to match the blood profile of local inhabitants to the blood-meal found in mosquitoes. Epidemiological models generally assume biting behaviour is random, however, numerous studies have shown that certain individuals are more attractive to mosquitoes than others, due to e.g., genetic makeup and profiles of skin microbiota. Analysing blood-meals and illuminating host choice behaviour will help re-evaluate and optimise disease transmission models.

We describe a new blood-meal assay that identifies the sex of the person a mosquito has bitten. The amelogenin locus (AMEL), a sex marker located on both X and Y chromosomes, was amplified by PCR in DNA extracted from Aedes aegypti and Anopheles coluzzii blood-meals.

Our results show that AMEL successfully amplifies up to 36 hours after a blood-meal in 63% of An. coluzzii and 80% of Ae. aegypti blood-meals, revealing the sex of humans that were fed on by individual mosquitoes, which enables further exploration of vector mosquito host preferences. This method was successfully tested in both Anopheles coluzzii and Aedes aegypti, important vectors of malaria and arboviruses, respectively.

This method, developed with mosquitoes fed on volunteers, can be applied to field-caught mosquitoes where the host species, the biological sex of the human host and host diversity within blood-meals can be determined. Two important vector species were tested successfully in our laboratory experiments, demonstrating the potential of this technique to improve epidemiological models of vector-borne diseases. This viable and highly cost-effective approach has the capacity to improve our understanding of vector-borne disease transmission, specifically gender differences in exposure and attractiveness to mosquitoes. The data gathered from field-studies using our method will shape new transmission models and aid in the implementation of more effective and targeted vector control strategies by better understanding the drivers of vector-host interactions.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2021. Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Uncontrolled Keywords: mosquitoes, vector-borne diseases, host choice, blood-feeding behaviour, epidemiology
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2021 00:14

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