28 April 2021

In a recent article in Nature Communications, researchers from the department of Medical Microbiology uncovered intriguing dynamics in the production of the transmission stages of malaria parasites, gametocytes.

Children with incident malaria infections and children with chronic infections were followed on a daily basis to determine what proportion of parasites commit to become gametocyte. With novel molecular markers developed by Kjerstin Lanke, they could for the very first time quantify gametocyte commitment as well as the subsequent release of male and female gametocytes into the circulation.

Using these novel assays, the work demonstrated that the early phase of malaria infections is characterized by a low commitment to gametocyte production. The sparse gametocytes that are produced are hardly infectious to mosquitoes and this infectivity is further decreased if mosquitoes ingest gametocytes at a moment of fever. In contrast, chronic infections produce more gametocytes that are often clonally complex and highly infectious gametocytes. This work underlines the importance of early infection detection to not only prevent severe illness but also prevent transmission of infections to the community.

The work was led by Aïssata Barry, a PhD student from Burkina Faso in the team of Teun Bousema, for whom the work is a concluding chapter of her thesis.​View article in Nature Communications. 

Aïssata Barry and Teun Bousema celebrating their paper in Ouagadougou.

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