From Africa to Europe: evidence of transmission of a tropical Plasmodium lineage in Spanish populations of house sparrows

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BACKGROUND: Avian malaria parasites are a highly diverse group that commonly infect birds and have deleterious effects on their hosts. Some parasite lineages are geographically widespread and infect many host species in many regions. Bird migration, natural dispersal, invasive species and human-mediated introductions into areas where competent insect vectors are present, are probably the main drivers of the current distribution of avian malaria parasites. METHODS: A total of 412 and 2588 wild house sparrows (Passer domesticus) were captured in 2012 and 2013 in two areas of the Iberian Peninsula (central and southern Spain, respectively). Genomic DNA was extracted from blood samples; parasite lineages were sequenced and identified by comparing with GenBank and/or MalAvi databases. RESULTS: Thirteen Plasmodium lineages were identified in house sparrows corresponding to three major clades. Five individuals were infected by the African Plasmodium lineage PAGRI02, which has been proposed to actively circulate only in Africa. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the low prevalence of PAGRI02 in sparrows in Spain, our results suggest that the area of transmission of this parasite is more widespread than previously thought and covers both Africa and Europe. Further studies of the global distribution of Plasmodium lineages infecting wild birds are required to identify the current transmission areas of these parasites. This is vital given the current scenario of global change that is providing new opportunities for avian malaria transmission into areas where parasites were previously absent.


  • Martina Ferraguti
  • Josué Martínez-de la Puente
  • Luz García-Longoria
  • Ramón Soriguer
  • Jordi Figuerola
  • Alfonso Marzal
Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • CSIC Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD)
  • University of Extremadura
  • CIBER Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP)

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Mikrobiologi
  • Folkhälsovetenskap, global hälsa, socialmedicin och epidemiologi
  • Ekologi


TidskriftParasites & Vectors
Utgåva nummer1
StatusPublished - 2019 nov 21
Peer review utfördJa