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The entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae is being considered as a biocontrol agent against adult African malaria vectors. In addition to causing significant mortality, this pathogen is known to cause reductions in feeding and fecundity in a range of insects. In the present study we investigated whether infection with M. anisopliae affected blood feeding and fecundity of adult female malaria vectors Anopheles gambiae Giles sensu stricto. Mosquitoes were contaminated with either a low or a moderately high dose of oil-formulated conidia of M. anisopliae, and offered a single human blood meal 48, 72, or 96 h later to assess feeding propensity and individual blood meal size. In a second experiment, individual fungus-infected females were offered a blood meal every third day (to a total of 8 gonotrophic cycles), and allowed to oviposit after each cycle in order to quantify feeding propensity and fecundity. Infected females took smaller blood meals and displayed reduced feeding propensity. It was found that mosquitoes, inoculated with a moderately high dose of fungal conidia, exhibited reduced appetite related to increasing fungal growth. Of the fungus-infected females, the proportion of mosquitoes taking the second blood meal was reduced with 51%. This was further reduced to 35.3% by the 4th blood meal. During 8 feeding opportunities, the average number of blood meals taken by uninfected females was 4.39, against 3.40 (low dose), and 2.07 (high dose) blood meals for the fungus-infected females. Moreover, infected females produced fewer eggs per gonotrophic cycle and had a lower life-time fecundity. Epidemiological models show that both blood feeding and fecundity are among the most important factors affecting the likelihood of a mosquito transmitting malaria, which suggests that this fungus may have potential as biocontrol agent for vector-borne disease control
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