top of page

Avian Malaria

Did you know that not only humans but birds can also get malaria? We didn’t either until our conversation with Ashwin Warudkar from Bird Lab, IISER Tirupati. The transcript of the conversation between Ashwin and our founder, Dr. Devica Ranade, is available below.


Ashwin: We all know that humans get malaria, but did you know that birds get malaria too? I study malaria in birds.

In the Western Ghats, various bird species are infected with malaria. I study how malaria spreads in birds. Is it more prevalent in birds near human settlements where there are more mosquitoes? And so on...

Devica: Does malaria spread among birds the same way it does in humans? I mean, does it spread through mosquitoes that bite a bird infected with malaria?

Ashwin: Yes, exactly in the same way. But birds’ bodies are covered in feathers. So, mosquitoes bite only around their eyes and on their toes, where the skin is exposed, when they are sleeping.

Devica: We know that in humans, Anopheles mosquitoes spread malaria. Do they spread malaria in birds too?

Ashwin: No, in birds, it is the Culex mosquito, which spreads filariasis and Chikungunya in humans.

Devica: How do you identify the infected birds?

Ashwin: Very similar to how we check for COVID. We take blood samples from birds and conduct a PCR, which tells us if a bird has malaria or not.

Devica: How common is malaria among birds in the forest?

Ashwin: I sampled about 1,000 birds from the Anaimalai Hills [a range of mountains in the southern Western Ghats of central Kerala and span the border of western Tamil Nadu] and found that almost 46% of the birds were infected with malaria, i.e., almost every other bird.

Devica: Are symptoms in birds similar to those in humans?

Ashwin: Yes and no. The first time the birds get infected, there is an acute phase during which birds get fever. They take shelter in the trees or tree trunks and become lethargic. They then slowly recover and get back to their routine. But the parasite still stays inside their body in an inactive state.

In humans, the malaria cycle occurs once and ceases. But in some birds, it seems to affect them again and again, say every summer.


To know more about the work by Bird Lab in IISER Tirupati, check out

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page