The private life of malaria parasites: Strategies for sexual reproduction

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Abstract

Malaria parasites exhibit a complex lifecycle, requiring extensive asexual replication in the liver and blood of the vertebrate host, and in the haemocoel of the insect vector. Yet, they must also undergo a single round of sexual reproduction, which occurs in the vector’s midgut upon uptake of a blood meal. Sexual reproduction is obligate for infection of the vector and thus, is essential for onwards transmission to new hosts. Sex in malaria parasites involves several bottlenecks in parasite number, making the stages involved attractive targets for blocking disease transmission. Malaria parasites have evolved a suite of adaptations (“strategies”) to maximise the success of sexual reproduction and transmission, which could undermine transmission-blocking interventions. Yet, understanding parasite strategies may also reveal novel opportunities for such interventions. Here, we outline how evolutionary and ecological theories, developed to explain reproductive strategies in multicellular taxa, can be applied to explain two reproductive strategies (conversion rate and sex ratio) expressed by malaria parasites within the vertebrate host.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111375
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular and Biochemical Parasitology
Volume244
Early online date20 May 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • gameocyte
  • transmission
  • fitness
  • life history trait
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • adaptation

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