Background: Blood-sucking flying insects play a key role in the transmission of pathogens of vector-borne diseases. However, at least for the case of avian malaria parasites, the vast majority of studies focus on the interaction between parasites and vertebrate hosts, but there is a lack of information regarding the interaction between the parasites and the insect vectors. Here, we identified the presence of malaria and malaria-like parasite lineages harbored by the potential vector Culicoides circumscriptus (Kieffer). Also, we identified some nodes of the transmission network connecting parasite lineages, potential insect vectors and avian hosts by comparing Haemoproteus and Plasmodium lineages isolated from insects with those infecting wild birds in this and previous studies. Methods: Using a molecular approach, we analysed the presence of blood parasites in a total of 97 biting midges trapped in the Doñana National Park (SW Spain) and surrounding areas. Also, 123 blood samples from 11 bird species were analyzed for the presence of blood parasite infections. Blood parasites Haemoproteus and Plasmodium were identified by amplification of a 478 bp fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gen. Results: Thirteen biting midges harboured blood parasites including six Haemoproteus and two Plasmodium lineages, supporting the potential role of these insects on parasite transmission. Moreover, ten (8.1%) birds carried blood parasites. Seven Plasmodium and one Haemoproteus lineages were isolated from birds. Overall, six new Haemoproteus lineages were described in this study. Also, we identified the transmission networks of some blood parasites. Two Haemoproteus lineages, hCIRCUM03 and GAGLA03, were identical to those isolated from Corvus monedula in southern Spain and Garrulus glandarius in Bulgaria, respectively. Furthermore, the new Haemoproteus lineage hCIRCUM05 showed a 99% similarity with a lineage found infecting captive penguins in Japan. Conclusions: The comparison of the parasite lineages isolated in this study with those previously found infecting birds allowed us to identify some potential nodes in the transmission network of avian blood parasite lineages. These results highlight the complexity of the transmission networks of blood parasites in the wild that may involve a high diversity of susceptible birds and insect vectors.
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