Uncovering the process of malaria parasite uptake during a mosquito bite

Year of award: 2023


  • Dr Matthew Gibbins

    University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Project summary

Blocking Plasmodium parasite transmission is key to malaria elimination and eradication. A hidden transmission reservoir are asymptomatic individuals (i.e., carriers) that constantly transmit the parasite within the population. Carriers usually have low levels of transmission stages (gametocytes) in peripheral blood. However, these gametocytes efficiently infect mosquitoes, at rates that are higher than what modelling would predict. To explain how this is possible, I will i) determine Plasmodium gametocyte location, motility and interactions with the host dermal vasculature in vivo using a murine malaria model and intravital microscopy, and translating to humans I will ii) determine the motility and host-parasite interactions of Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes using an in vitro dermal vasculature microfluidic platform through a collaboration at EMBL Barcelona The process of malaria parasite uptake during a mosquito bite has also not been described. I hypothesise that when mosquitoes feed, they release signals that lead to the chemoattraction of gametocytes to the bite site, thereby improving transmission efficiency. To uncover the processes involved, and inform how transmission could be blocked, I will i) investigate the motile behaviour and uptake of gametocytes during mosquito biting, and ii) identify the factor(s) in mosquito saliva that facilitates improved transmission efficiency.