• Barriers to gene flow from oilseed rape (Brassica napus) into populations of Sinapis arvensis.

    12 December 2017

    One concern over growing herbicide-tolerant crops is that herbicide-tolerance genes may be transferred into the weeds they are designed to control. Brassica napus (oilseed rape) has a number of wild relatives that cause weed problems and the most widespread of these is Sinapis arvensis (charlock). Sinapis arvensis seed was collected from 102 populations across the UK, within and outside B. napus-growing areas. These populations were tested for sexual compatibility with B. napus and it was found that none of them hybridized readily in the glasshouse. In contrast to previous studies, we have found that hybrids can be formed naturally with S. arvensis as the maternal parent. Six diverse B. napus cultivars (Capricorn, Drakkar, Falcon, Galaxy, Hobson and Regent) were tested for their compatibility with S. arvensis but no cultivar hybridized readily in the glasshouse. We were unable to detect gene transfer from B. napus to S. arvensis in the field, confirming the extremely low probability of hybridization predicted from the glasshouse work.

  • Predicting the geographical distributions of the macaque hosts and mosquito vectors of Plasmodium knowlesi malaria in forested and non-forested areas

    18 January 2018

    Plasmodium knowlesi is a zoonotic pathogen, transmitted among macaques and to humans by anopheline mosquitoes. Information on P. knowlesi malaria is lacking in most regions so the first step to understand the geographical distribution of disease risk is to define the distributions of the reservoir and vector species.We used macaque and mosquito species presence data, background data that captured sampling bias in the presence data, a boosted regression tree model and environmental datasets, including annual data for land classes, to predict the distributions of each vector and host species. We then compared the predicted distribution of each species with cover of each land class.Fine-scale distribution maps were generated for three macaque host species (Macaca fascicularis, M. nemestrina and M. leonina) and two mosquito vector complexes (the Dirus Complex and the Leucosphyrus Complex). The Leucosphyrus Complex was predicted to occur in areas with disturbed, but not intact, forest cover (> 60 % tree cover) whereas the Dirus Complex was predicted to occur in areas with 10-100 % tree cover as well as vegetation mosaics and cropland. Of the macaque species, M. nemestrina was mainly predicted to occur in forested areas whereas M. fascicularis was predicted to occur in vegetation mosaics, cropland, wetland and urban areas in addition to forested areas.The predicted M. fascicularis distribution encompassed a wide range of habitats where humans are found. This is of most significance in the northern part of its range where members of the Dirus Complex are the main P. knowlesi vectors because these mosquitoes were also predicted to occur in a wider range of habitats. Our results support the hypothesis that conversion of intact forest into disturbed forest (for example plantations or timber concessions), or the creation of vegetation mosaics, will increase the probability that members of the Leucosphyrus Complex occur at these locations, as well as bringing humans into these areas. An explicit analysis of disease risk itself using infection data is required to explore this further. The species distributions generated here can now be included in future analyses of P. knowlesi infection risk.

  • Glucosinolates and differential herbivory in wild populations of Brassica oleracea

    9 January 2018

    Glucosinolates are known to elicit responses from Brassica herbivores in laboratory studies. To study their importance in interactions with herbivores in the field, glucosinolate profiles and levels of herbivory were ascertained for wild cabbage plants growing in four neighboring populations in the UK. Glucosinolate profiles differed between plant populations, but not between different habitats within populations. Within habitats, there was no link between individual plant glucosinolate profiles and herbivory by Pieris spp., slugs and snails, flea beetles or aphids. Plants attacked by the micromoth. Selania leplastriana, contained higher levels of 2-hydroxy-3-butenylglucosinolate and 3-indolylmethylglucosinolate than plants within the same population that were not attacked. It is concluded that the differences in glucosinolate profiles between the plant populations are unlikely to be due to differential selection pressures from herbivores feeding on the mature plants over the two years studies.

  • Analysis of a backcross population from a multi-copy transgenic Brassica napus line

    27 October 2017

    Brassica napus is one of the crops at the forefront of biotechnological development. The procedures used to produce transgenic varieties are all prone to generating plants with multiple transgene copies. There has been considereable interest in the behaviour of such multi-copy lines because gene dosage rarely appears to correlate simply with gene expression. Here we report the analysis of a population of 107 progeny from a B. napus transformant containing multiple copies of a GUS marker gene construct. A total of 12 GUS sequence copies were identified including one that was non-functional. The expression of GUS increased with increasing copy number but this increase only made up a small proportion of the total variation between lines. There was no evidence of interaction between the various GUS copies and they appeared to segregate independently. The variation between progeny lines indicated that the number of gene copies was not a good guide to the expression of the gene product and hence that the expression of the gene in progeny from a multiple-copy parent could not be predicted. The importance of these findings in relation to plant breeding and the risk assessment process is discussed.

  • Global distribution and environmental suitability for Chikungunya virus, 1952 to 2015

    10 January 2018

    Chikungunya fever is an acute febrile illness caused by the chikungunya virus (CHIKV), which is transmitted to humans by Aedes mosquitoes. Although chikungunya fever is rarely fatal, patients can experience debilitating symptoms that last from months to years. Here we comprehensively assess the global distribution of chikungunya and produce high-resolution maps, using an established modelling framework that combines a comprehensive occurrence database with bespoke environmental correlates, including up-to-date Aedes distribution maps. This enables estimation of the current total population-at-risk of CHIKV transmission and identification of areas where the virus may spread to in the future. We identified 94 countries with good evidence for current CHIKV presence and a set of countries in the New and Old World with potential for future CHIKV establishment, demonstrated by high environmental suitability for transmission and in some cases previous sporadic reports. Aedes aegypti presence was identified as one of the major contributing factors to CHIKV transmission but significant geographical heterogeneity exists. We estimated 1.3 billion people are living in areas at-risk of CHIKV transmission. These maps provide a baseline for identifying areas where prevention and control efforts should be prioritised and can be used to guide estimation of the global burden of CHIKV.

  • The effect of malaria control on Plasmodium falciparum in Africa between 2000 and 2015.

    19 January 2018

    Since the year 2000, a concerted campaign against malaria has led to unprecedented levels of intervention coverage across sub-Saharan Africa. Understanding the effect of this control effort is vital to inform future control planning. However, the effect of malaria interventions across the varied epidemiological settings of Africa remains poorly understood owing to the absence of reliable surveillance data and the simplistic approaches underlying current disease estimates. Here we link a large database of malaria field surveys with detailed reconstructions of changing intervention coverage to directly evaluate trends from 2000 to 2015, and quantify the attributable effect of malaria disease control efforts. We found that Plasmodium falciparum infection prevalence in endemic Africa halved and the incidence of clinical disease fell by 40% between 2000 and 2015. We estimate that interventions have averted 663 (542-753 credible interval) million clinical cases since 2000. Insecticide-treated nets, the most widespread intervention, were by far the largest contributor (68% of cases averted). Although still below target levels, current malaria interventions have substantially reduced malaria disease incidence across the continent. Increasing access to these interventions, and maintaining their effectiveness in the face of insecticide and drug resistance, should form a cornerstone of post-2015 control strategies.

  • The role of spatial scale and intraspecific variation in secondary chemistry in host-plant location by Ceutorhynchus assimilis (Coleoptera: Curculionidae).

    12 December 2017

    To understand the ecological role of secondary plant compounds in host location by phytophagous insects it is important to consider attraction at different scales in natural populations. The cabbage seed weevil, Ceutorhynchus assimilis, which lays eggs in pods of crucifers where the larvae feed on seed, is attracted to purified extracts of specific glucosinolate-derived volatiles. We considered the possibility that C. assimilis adults are attracted to and preferentially attack patches of plants and/or individual plants producing these volatiles. Using discrete natural populations of Brassica oleracea and Brassica nigra, we found that oviposition was highest in populations of B. oleracea producing high amounts of 3-butenylglucosinolate. No links were found between the other glucosinolates, 2-propenylglucosinolate, 2-hydroxy-3-butenylglucosinolate, 1-indolylmethylglucosinolate or 1-methoxy-3-indolylmethylglucosinolate, and oviposition in B. oleracea. B. nigra, which contains only 2-propenylglucosinolate, was not attacked by C. assimilis. Within populations of B. oleracea, neither oviposition nor the number of seeds eaten was related to the glucosinolate profiles of individual plants. We suggest that C. assimilis adults use 3-butenylglucosinolate-derived volatiles to locate host populations, whereas other cues determine oviposition on individual plants. The consequences of these results for natural selection of glucosinolate phenotypes are discussed.

  • Modelling the relative abundance of the primary African vectors of malaria before and after the implementation of indoor, insecticide-based vector control

    12 January 2018

    Malaria remains a heavy burden across sub-Saharan Africa where transmission is maintained by some of the world's most efficient vectors. Indoor insecticide-based control measures have significantly reduced transmission, yet elimination remains a distant target. Knowing the relative abundance of the primary vector species can provide transmission models with much needed information to guide targeted control measures. Moreover, understanding how existing interventions are impacting on these relative abundances highlights where alternative control (e.g., larval source management) is needed.Using the habitat suitability probabilities generated by predictive species distribution models combined with data collated from the literature, a multinomial generalized additive model was applied to produce relative abundance estimates for Anopheles arabiensis, Anopheles funestus and Anopheles gambiae/Anopheles coluzzii. Using pre- and post-intervention abundance data, estimates of the effect of indoor insecticide-based interventions on these relative abundances were made and are illustrated in post-intervention maps.Conditional effect plots and relative abundance maps illustrate the individual species' predicted habitat suitability and how they interact when in sympatry. Anopheles arabiensis and An. funestus show an affinity in habitat preference at the expense of An. gambiae/An. coluzzii, whereas increasing habitat suitability for An. gambiae/An. coluzzii is conversely less suitable for An. arabiensis but has little effect on An. funestus. Indoor insecticide-based interventions had a negative impact on the relative abundance of An. funestus, and a lesser effect on An. arabiensis. Indoor residual spraying had the greatest impact on the relative abundance of An. funestus, and a lesser effect on An. gambiae/An. coluzzii. Insecticide-treated bed nets reduced the relative abundance of both species equally. These results do not indicate changes in the absolute abundance of these species, which may be reduced for all species overall.The maps presented here highlight the interactions between the primary vector species in sub-Saharan Africa and demonstrate that An. funestus is more susceptible to certain indoor-based insecticide interventions than An. gambiae/An. coluzzii, which in turn, is more susceptible than An. arabiensis. This may provide An. arabiensis with a competitive advantage where it is found in sympatry with other more endophilic vectors, and potentially increase the need for outdoor-based vector interventions to deal with any residual transmission barring the way to malaria elimination.

  • Herbivory by the cabbage seed weevil (Ceutorhynchus assimilis) in natural populations of brassica oleracea

    27 October 2017

    Glucosinolate profiles vary among populations of wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea) on the Dorset coast. As part of a study of the role of herbivory in the origin and maintenance of this polymorphism we investigated the interaction between wild cabbage plants and the cabbage seed weevil (Ceutorhynchus assimilis). In 1995 and 1996, there was variation among cabbage populations in the proportion of seed pods infested with weevil larvae, and in both years the number of viable seed was significantly reduced in infested pods. In addition to being consumed by the larvae, seed were lost to infection by fungal pathogens. The proportion of pods attacked by fungi varied among populations and the number of seed lost to fungal infection was higher in weevil-infested pods. A further factor was parasitism of the weevil by a chalcid parasitoid which reduced seed consumption by the weevil. The proportion of parasitised weevils was consistent among populations in 1995 but varied significantly among populations in 1996. The effects of the weevil are discussed in relation to the distribution of secondary defense compounds in the wild cabbage populations of Dorset.

  • A global bionomic database for the dominant vectors of human malaria.

    26 December 2017

    Anopheles mosquitoes were first recognised as the transmitters of human malaria in the late 19th Century and have been subject to a huge amount of research ever since. Yet there is still much that is unknown regarding the ecology, behaviour (collectively 'bionomics') and sometimes even the identity of many of the world's most prominent disease vectors, much less the within-species variation in their bionomics. Whilst malaria elimination remains an ambitious goal, it is becoming increasingly clear that knowledge of vector behaviour is needed to effectively target control measures. A database of bionomics data for the dominant vector species of malaria worldwide has been compiled from published peer-reviewed literature. The data identification and collation processes are described, together with the geo-positioning and quality control methods. This is the only such dataset in existence and provides a valuable resource to researchers and policy makers in this field.