METHODS: Mosquitoes found landing on humans and resting on leaves over a 5-day period at two sites in the Lawas District of northern Sarawak were collected and identified. DNA samples extracted from salivary glands of Anopheles mosquitoes were subjected to nested PCR malaria-detection assays. The small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA) gene of Plasmodium was sequenced, and the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) and mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) gene of the mosquitoes were sequenced from the Plasmodium-positive samples for phylogenetic analysis.
RESULTS: Totals of 65 anophelines and 127 culicines were collected. By PCR, 6 An. balabacensis and 5 An. donaldi were found to have single P. knowlesi infections while 3 other An. balabacensis had either single, double or triple infections with P. inui, P. fieldi, P. cynomolgi and P. knowlesi. Phylogenetic analysis of the Plasmodium SSU rRNA gene confirmed 3 An. donaldi and 3 An. balabacensis with single P. knowlesi infections, while 3 other An. balabacensis had two or more Plasmodium species of P. inui, P. knowlesi, P. cynomolgi and some species of Plasmodium that could not be conclusively identified. Phylogenies inferred from the ITS2 and/or cox1 sequences of An. balabacensis and An. donaldi indicate that they are genetically indistinguishable from An. balabacensis and An. donaldi, respectively, found in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.
CONCLUSIONS: Previously An. latens was identified as the vector for P. knowlesi in Kapit, central Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, and now An. balabacensis and An. donaldi have been incriminated as vectors for zoonotic malaria in Lawas, northern Sarawak.