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Host age variation is a striking source of heterogeneity that can shape the evolution and transmission dynamic of pathogens. Compared with vertebrate systems, our understanding of the impact of host age on invertebrate-pathogen interactions remains limited. We examined the influence of mosquito age on key life-history traits driving human malaria transmission. Females of Anopheles coluzzii, a major malaria vector, belonging to three age classes (4-, 8- and 12-day-old), were experimentally infected with Plasmodium falciparum field isolates. Our findings revealed reduced competence in 12-day-old mosquitoes, characterized by lower oocyst/sporozoite rates and intensities compared with younger mosquitoes. Despite shorter median longevities in older age classes, infected 12-day-old mosquitoes exhibited improved survival, suggesting that the infection might act as a fountain of youth for older mosquitoes specifically. The timing of sporozoite appearance in the salivary glands remained consistent across mosquito age classes, with an extrinsic incubation period of approximately 13 days. Integrating these results into an epidemiological model revealed a lower vectorial capacity for older mosquitoes compared with younger ones, albeit still substantial owing to extended longevity in the presence of infection. Considering age heterogeneity provides valuable insights for ecological and epidemiological studies, informing targeted control strategies to mitigate pathogen transmission.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Biol Sci

Publication Date





ageing, malaria, mosquito, pathogen transmission, Animals, Female, Adolescent, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Malaria, Anopheles, Virulence, Mosquito Vectors, Plasmodium falciparum, Sporozoites, Longevity