High gametocyte complexity and mosquito infectivity of Plasmodium falciparum in the Gambia

Davis Nwakanma, Amani Kheir, Mercy Sowa, Sam Dunyo, Musa Jawara, Margaret Pinder, Paul Milligan, David Walliker, Hamza A. Babiker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this work was to determine the infectivity to mosquitoes of genetically diverse Plasmodium falciparum clones seen in natural infections in the Gambia. Two principal questions were addressed: (i) how infectious are gametocytes of sub-patent infections, particularly at the end of the dry season; and (ii) are all clones in multiclonal infections equally capable of infecting mosquitoes? The work was carried out with two cohorts of infected individuals. Firstly, a group of 31 P. falciparum-infected people were recruited in the middle of the dry season (May, 2003), then examined for P. falciparum at the beginning (August 2003) and middle (October, 2003) of the transmission season. On each occasion, we examined the genotypes of asexual forms and gametocytes by PCR and RT-PCR, as well as their infectivity to Anopheles gambiae using membrane feeds. One individual gave rise to infected mosquitoes in May, and two in August. Different gametocyte genotypes co-existed in the same infection and fluctuated over time. The mean multiplicity of infection was 1.4, 1.7 and 1.5 clones in May, August and October, respectively. Second, a group of patients undergoing drug-treatment during August 2003 was tested for asexual and gametocyte genotypes and their infectivity to mosquitoes. Forty-three out of 100 feeds produced infections. The genetic complexity of the parasites in mosquitoes was sometimes greater than that detectable in the blood on which the mosquitoes had fed. This suggested that gametocytes of clones existing in the blood below PCR detection limits at the time of the feed were at least as infectious to the mosquitoes as the more abundant clones. These findings emphasise the crucial role of gametocyte complexity and infectivity in generating the remarkable diversity of P. falciparum genotypes seen in infected people, even in an area of seasonal transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-227
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • Anopheles mosquito infectivity
  • Gametocytes
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • RT-PCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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