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Parasit Vectors. 2010 Apr 30;3:41. doi: 10.1186/1756-3305-3-41.

Partial mitochondrial DNA sequences suggest the existence of a cryptic species within the Leucosphyrus group of the genus Anopheles (Diptera: Culicidae), forest malaria vectors, in northern Vietnam.

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Institute of Tropical Medicine (NEKKEN), Nagasaki University, Sakamoto, Nagasaki 852-8523, Japan.



During the last decade, Southeast Asian countries have been very successful in reducing the burden of malaria. However, malaria remains endemic in these countries, especially in remote and forested areas. The Leucosphyrus group of the genus Anopheles harbors the most important malaria vectors in forested areas of Southeast Asia. In Vietnam, previous molecular studies have resulted in the identification of only Anopheles dirus sensu stricto (previously known as An. dirus species A) among the Leucosphyrus group members. However, Vietnamese entomologists have recognized that mosquitoes belonging to the Leucosphyrus group in northern Vietnam exhibit morphological characteristics similar to those of Anopheles takasagoensis, which has been reported only from Taiwan. Here, we aimed to confirm the genetic and morphological identities of the members of the Leucosphyrus group in Vietnam.


In the molecular phylogenetic trees reconstructed using partial COI and ND6 mitochondrial gene sequences, samples collected from southern and central Vietnam clustered together with GenBank sequences of An. dirus that were obtained from Thailand. However, samples from northern Vietnam formed a distinct clade separated from both An. dirus and An. takasagoensis by other valid species.


The results suggest the existence of a cryptic species in northern Vietnam that is morphologically similar to, but phylogenetically distant from both An. dirus and An. takasagoensis. We have tentatively designated this possible cryptic species as Anopheles aff. takasagoensis for convenience, until a valid name is assigned. However, it is difficult to distinguish the species solely on the basis of morphological characteristics. Further studies on such as karyotypes and polytene chromosome banding patterns are necessary to confirm whether An. aff. takasagoensis is a valid species. Moreover, studies on (1) the geographic distribution, which is potentially spreading along the Vietnam, China, Laos, and Myanmar borders; (2) morphological and ecological characteristics; and (3) vectorial capacity of this newly identified cryptic species of An. dirus, which is one of the most important malaria vectors in the mainland of Southeast Asia, are necessary for planning efficient malaria vector control programs in this region.

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