I. A. Krams, V. Suraka, M. J. Rantala, T. Sepp, P. Mierauskas, J. Vrublevska & T. Krama, 2013, published online in Early View (DOI: 10.1111/jzo.12043)
Like human malaria, avian malaria is caused by blood parasites transmitted via bloodsucking insects, and it has widespread health implications for wild bird populations and for the poultry industry. In a paper recently published in Journal of Zoology, I.A. Krams et al. investigated the health effects of avian malaria infection in great tit (Parus major) nestlings. Rather than applying anti-malaria drugs that may have their own negative physiological effects, the authors prevented insects from biting and infecting great tit nestlings by applying insect repellent inside their nest boxes, and this treatment resulted in significantly lower intensity of blood parasite infections in these nestlings compared to those from the nest boxes without the repellent. Moreover, in the near absence of blood parasites, the nestlings had higher concentrations of haemoglobin in their blood, and they survived at higher rates through the nestling phase and during the first weeks of their fledgling period. Haemoglobin is strongly linked to health state and survival in birds, and this study represents the first demonstration of the impact of avian malaria on the haemoglobin levels of the infected birds.
By Elina Rantanen