Malaria transmission begins with the injection of Plasmodium sporozoites into the skin of a vertebrate host by infected anopheline mosquitoes. Although the size of the sporozoite inoculum likely affects the course of the disease, the number of sporozoites injected by infected mosquitoes has not been determined in vivo. Using a quantitative PCR assay, we determined the number of sporozoites injected into mice by single mosquitoes. Analysis of 59 mosquito feedings showed that a single infected mosquito injected between 0 and 1,297 sporozoites, with a mean of 123 and a median of 18. Twenty-two percent of infected mosquitoes injected no sporozoites. The number of sporozoites injected was only weakly correlated to the salivary gland load. To better understand the large variability in sporozoite injection among mosquitoes, we quantified the sporozoites injected by individual mosquitoes on three different days. Approximately 20% of moderately to heavily infected mosquitoes injected few to no sporozoites on all 3 days, suggesting that some mosquitoes are poor transmitters of sporozoites. Other mosquitoes injected high numbers of sporozoites on at least one of the days observed and minimal numbers on the other day(s), supporting the hypothesis that sporozoite injection is discontinuous, a pattern that may aid in the establishment of malaria infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases