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Testing possible causes of gametocyte reduction in temporally out-of-synch malaria infections

January 15, 2020 - 14:39 -- Open Access
Mary L. Westwood, Aidan J. O’Donnell, Petra Schneider, Gregory F. Albery, Kimberley F. Prior and Sarah E. Reece
Malaria Journal 2020 19:17, 14 January 2020

The intraerythrocytic development cycle (IDC) of the rodent malaria Plasmodium chabaudi is coordinated with host circadian rhythms. When this coordination is disrupted, parasites suffer a 50% reduction in both asexual stages and sexual stage gametocytes over the acute phase of infection. Reduced gametocyte density may not simply follow from a loss of asexuals because investment into gametocytes (“conversion rate”) is a plastic trait; furthermore, the densities of both asexuals and gametocytes are highly dynamic during infection. Hence, the reasons for the reduction of gametocytes in infections that are out-of-synch with host circadian rhythms remain unclear. Here, two explanations are tested: first, whether out-of-synch parasites reduce their conversion rate to prioritize asexual replication via reproductive restraint; second, whether out-of-synch gametocytes experience elevated clearance by the host’s circadian immune responses.

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