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Dynamics of parasitemia of malaria parasites in a naturally and experimentally infected migratory songbird, the great reed warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus

  • Pavel Zehtindjiev
  • Mihaela Ilieva
  • Helena Westerdahl
  • Bengt Hansson
  • Gediminas Valkiunas
  • Staffan Bensch
Publishing year: 2008
Language: English
Pages: 99-110
Publication/Series: Experimental Parasitology
Volume: 119
Issue: 1
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

Little is known about the development of infection of malaria parasites of the genus Plasmodium in wild birds. We used qPCR, targeting specific mitochondrial lineages of Plasmodium ashfordi (GRW2) and Plasmodium relictum (GRW4), to monitor changes in intensities of parasitemia in captive great reed warblers Acrocephalus arundinaceus from summer to spring. The study involved both naturally infected adults and experimentally infected juveniles. The experiment demonstrated that P. ashfordi and P. relictum lineages differ substantially in several life-history traits (e.g. prepatent period and dynamics of parasitemia) and that individual hosts show substantial differences in responses to these infections. The intensity of parasitemia of lineages in mixed infections co-varied positively, suggesting a control mechanism by the host that is general across the parasite lineages. The intensity of parasitemia for individual hosts was highly repeatable suggesting variation between the host individuals in their genetic or acquired control of the infections. In future studies, care must be taken to avoid mixed infections in wild caught donors, and when possible use mosquitoes for the experiments as inoculation of infectious blood ignores important initial stages of the contact between the bird and the parasite.


  • Biological Sciences
  • Plasmodium
  • Acrocephalus arundinaceus
  • avian malaria
  • mixed infections
  • qPCR


  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 0014-4894
Helena Westerdahl
E-mail: helena [dot] westerdahl [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Senior lecturer


+46 46 222 36 69



Research group

Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


Luz Garcia-Longoria

PhD students, main supervisor

Samantha Mellinger

PhD students, assistant supervisor

Gustaf Ekelund Ugge

Helena Westerdahl w house sparrow