Genetic Diversity of Anopheles coustani (Diptera: Culicidae) in Malaria Transmission Foci in Southern and Central Africa
Despite ongoing malaria control efforts implemented throughout sub-Saharan Africa, malaria remains an enormous public health concern. Current interventions such as indoor residual spraying with insecticides and use of insecticide-treated bed nets are aimed at targeting the key malaria vectors that are primarily endophagic and endophilic. Anopheles coustani s.l., an understudied vector of malaria, is a species previously thought to exhibit mostly zoophilic behavior. Like many of these understudied species, An. coustani has greater anthropophilic tendencies than previously appreciated, is often both endophagic and exophagic, and carries Plasmodium falciparum sporozoites. The aim of this study was to explore genetic variation of An. coustani mosquitoes and the potential of this species to contribute to malaria parasite transmission in high transmission settings in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Morphologically identified An. coustani specimens that were trapped outdoors in these study sites were analyzed by PCR and sequencing for species identification and bloodmeal sources, and malaria parasite infection was determined by ELISA and qPCR. Fifty An. coustani s.s. specimens were confirmed by analysis of mitochondrial DNA cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) and ribosomal internal transcribed spacer region 2 (ITS2). Maximum likelihood phylogenetic analysis of COI and ITS2 sequences revealed two distinct phylogenetic groups within this relatively small regional collection. Our findings indicate that both An. coustani groups have anthropophilic and exophagic habits and come into frequent contact with P. falciparum, suggesting that this potential alternative malaria vector might elude current vector control measures in northern Zambia and southern DRC.