Genomic signatures of population decline in the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae
BACKGROUND: Population genomic features such as nucleotide diversity and linkage disequilibrium are expected to be strongly shaped by changes in population size, and might therefore be useful for monitoring the success of a control campaign. In the Kilifi district of Kenya, there has been a marked decline in the abundance of the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae subsequent to the rollout of insecticide-treated bed nets. METHODS: To investigate whether this decline left a detectable population genomic signature, simulations were performed to compare the effect of population crashes on nucleotide diversity, Tajima's D, and linkage disequilibrium (as measured by the population recombination parameter rho). Linkage disequilibrium and rho were estimated for An. gambiae from Kilifi, and compared them to values for Anopheles arabiensis and Anopheles merus at the same location, and for An. gambiae in a location 200 km from Kilifi. RESULTS: In the first simulations rho changed more rapidly after a population crash than the other statistics, and therefore is a more sensitive indicator of recent population decline. In the empirical data, linkage disequilibrium extends 100-1000 times further, and rho is 100-1000 times smaller, for the Kilifi population of An. gambiae than for any of the other populations. There were also significant runs of homozygosity in many of the individual An. gambiae mosquitoes from Kilifi. CONCLUSIONS: These results support the hypothesis that the recent decline in An. gambiae was driven by the rollout of bed nets. Measuring population genomic parameters in a small sample of individuals before, during and after vector or pest control may be a valuable method of tracking the effectiveness of interventions.