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Mechanisms of mortality in Culicoides biting midges due to Haemoproteus infection



We examined the effects of Haemoproteus infection on the survival and pathology caused in the biting midges. Forty-six females of Culicoides impunctatus were exposed experimentally by allowing them to feed on a naturally infected red-backed shrike infected with Haemoproteus lanii (lineage hRB1, gametocytaemia 5·2%). Seventeen females were fed on an uninfected bird (controls). Dead insects were collected, counted and used for dissection, histological examination and polymerase chain reaction-based testing. Parasites were present in all experimentally infected biting midges, but absent from control insects. Survivorship differed significantly between the control and infected groups. Twelve hours post-exposure (PE), 45 (98%) experimentally infected midges were dead, but all control midges remained alive, and many of them survived until 7 day PE. The migrating ookinetes of H. lanii overfilled midgut, markedly damaged the midgut wall, entered the haemocoel and overfilled the abdomen and thorax of exposed biting midges. Massive infection by migrating ookinetes led to damage of abdomen and thorax of biting midges. The parasites often present in large clumps in the haemocoel in abdomen and thorax, leading to the interruption of the haemolymph circulation. These are the main reasons for rapid death of biting midges after feeding on high-intensity infections of Haemoproteus parasites.


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*Corresponding author: Institute of Ecology, Nature Research Centre, Akademijos 2, LT-08412 Vilnius, Lithuania. E-mail:


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Mechanisms of mortality in Culicoides biting midges due to Haemoproteus infection



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