Vector-borne diseases, especially those transmitted by mosquitoes, have severe impacts on public health and economy. West Nile virus (WNV) and avian malaria parasites of the genus Plasmodium, are mosquito-borne pathogens that may produce severe disease and illness in humans and birds, respectively, and circulate in an endemic form in southern Europe.
Plasmodium species feature only four to eight nuclear ribosomal units on different chromosomes, which are assumed to evolve independently according to a birth-and-death model, in which new variants originate by duplication and others are deleted throughout time. Moreover, distinct ribosomal units were shown to be expressed during different developmental stages in the vertebrate and mosquito hosts. Here, the 18S rDNA sequences of 32 species of avian haemosporidian parasites are reported and compared to those of simian and rodent Plasmodium species.
Avian malaria parasites can negatively affect many aspects of the life of the passerines. Though these parasites may strongly affect the health and thus migration patterns of the birds also during autumn, previous studies on avian malaria focused mainly on the spring migration and the breeding periods of the birds. We investigated whether the prevalence of blood parasites varies in relation to biometrical traits, body condition and arrival time in the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) during autumn migration.