Despite its epidemiological importance, the time Plasmodium parasites take to achieve development in the vector mosquito (the extrinsic incubation period, EIP) remains poorly characterized. A novel non-destructive assay designed to estimate EIP in single mosquitoes, and more broadly to study Plasmodium-Anopheles vectors interactions, is presented.
During sporogony, malaria-causing parasites infect a mosquito, reproduce and migrate to the mosquito salivary glands where they can be transmitted the next time blood feeding occurs. The time required for sporogony, known as the extrinsic incubation period (EIP), is an important determinant of malaria transmission intensity. The EIP is typically estimated as the time for a given percentile, x, of infected mosquitoes to develop salivary gland sporozoites (the infectious parasite life stage), which is denoted by EIPx. Many mechanisms, however, affect the observed sporozoite prevalence including the human-to-mosquito transmission probability and possibly differences in mosquito mortality according to infection status.
Many mosquito species, including the major malaria vector Anopheles gambiae, naturally undergo multiple reproductive cycles of blood feeding, egg development and egg laying in their lifespan. Such complex mosquito behavior is regularly overlooked when mosquitoes are experimentally infected with malaria parasites, limiting our ability to accurately describe potential effects on transmission.