Abstract

In vertebrates, multiple host characteristics and environmental factors are known to influence infectious disease dynamics. Here, we investigated variability in prevalence and parasitemia of Plasmodium relictum in the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) across a large number of rural and urban populations (n = 16). We found that prevalence was not predicted by any of the host traits investigated (age, sex, body mass, or wing length). However, parasitemia was significantly higher in females when compared to males and in 1-yr-olds as compared to older individuals. Neither prevalence nor parasitemia differed according to habitat type (urban vs. rural). These results suggest that inter-population variation in parasitemia depends on host intrinsic factors whereas variation in prevalence could be due to environmental differences between populations, such as climatic variables that might affect the abundance of vectors. This large-scale study gives us a better understanding of the key factors involved in the epidemiology of avian malaria.

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