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PLoS One. 2013 May 3;8(5):e63387. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063387. Print 2013.

An impossible journey? The development of Plasmodium falciparum NF54 in Culex quinquefasciatus.

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Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland, United States of America.


Although Anopheles mosquitoes are the vectors for human Plasmodium spp., there are also other mosquito species-among them culicines (Culex spp., Aedes spp.)-present in malaria-endemic areas. Culicine mosquitoes transmit arboviruses and filarial worms to humans and are vectors for avian Plasmodium spp., but have never been observed to transmit human Plasmodium spp. When ingested by a culicine mosquito, parasites could either face an environment that does not allow development due to biologic incompatibility or be actively killed by the mosquito's immune system. In the latter case, the molecular mechanism of killing must be sufficiently powerful that Plasmodium is not able to overcome it. To investigate how human malaria parasites develop in culicine mosquitoes, we infected Culex quinquefasciatus with Plasmodium falciparum NF54 and monitored development of parasites in the blood bolus and midgut epithelium at different time points. Our results reveal that ookinetes develop in the midgut lumen of C. quinquefasciatus in slightly lower numbers than in Anopheles gambiae G3. After 30 hours, parasites have invaded the midgut and can be observed on the basal side of the midgut epithelium by confocal and transmission electron microscopy. Very few of the parasites in C. quinquefasciatus are alive, most of them are lysed. Eight days after the mosquito's blood meal, no oocysts can be found in C. quinquefasciatus. Our results suggest that the mosquito immune system could be involved in parasite killing early in development after ookinetes have crossed the midgut epithelium and come in contact with the mosquito hemolymph.

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