Population genetics of Anopheles funestus, the African malaria vector, Kenya

Ogola EO, Odero JO, Mwangangi JM, Masiga DK, Tchouassi DP
Parasit Vectors. 2019;12

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BACKGROUND: Anopheles funestus is among the major malaria vectors in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa and has been recently implicated in persistent malaria transmission. However, its ecology and genetic diversity remain poorly understood in Kenya. METHODS: Using 16 microsatellite loci, we examined the genetic structure of An. funestus sampled from 11 locations (n = 426 individuals) across a wide geographical range in Kenya spanning coastal, western and Rift Valley areas. RESULTS: Kenyan An. funestus resolved as three genetically distinct clusters. The largest cluster (FUN1) broadly included samples from western and Rift Valley areas of Kenya with two clusters identified from coastal Kenya (FUN2 and FUN3), not previously reported. Geographical distance had no effect on population differentiation of An. funestus. We found a significant variation in the mean Plasmodium infectivity between the clusters (chi(2) = 12.1, df = 2, P = 0.002) and proportional to the malaria prevalence in the different risk zones of Kenya. Notably, there was variation in estimated effective population sizes between the clusters, suggesting possible differential impact of anti-vector interventions in represented areas. CONCLUSIONS: Heterogeneity among Kenyan populations of An. funestus will impact malaria vector control with practical implications for the development of gene-drive technologies. The difference in Plasmodium infectivity and effective population size between the clusters could suggest potential variation in phenotypic characteristics relating to competence or insecticide resistance. This is worth examining in future studies.