Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Rodent malaria in Gabon: diversity and host range.

Abstract

Malaria parasites infect a wide range of vertebrate hosts, such as reptiles, birds and mammals (i.e., primates, ungulates, bats, and rodents). Four Plasmodium species and their subspecies infect African Muridae. Since their discoveries in the 1940s, these rodent Plasmodium species have served as biological models to explore many aspects of the biology of malaria agents and their interactions with their hosts. Despite that, surprisingly, little is known about their ecology, natural history and evolution. Most field studies on these parasites, performed from the 1940s to the early 1980s, showed that all rodent Plasmodium species infect only one main host species, the thicket rat. In the present study, we re-explored the diversity of Plasmodium parasites infecting rodent species living in peridomestic habitats in Gabon, Central Africa. Using molecular approaches, we found that at least two Plasmodium species (Plasmodium vinckei and Plasmodium yoelii) circulated among five rodent species (including the invasive species Mus musculus). This suggests that the host range of these parasites might be larger than previously considered. Our results also showed that the diversity of these parasites could be higher than currently recognized, with the discovery of a new phylogenetic lineage that could represent a new species of rodent Plasmodium.