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Parasitology. 1994 Nov;109 ( Pt 4):413-21.

Random mating in a natural population of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

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Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK.


The genetic structure of a population of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum has been examined in a village in Tanzania. Seventeen alleles of the merozoite surface protein MSP-1 and 23 of MSP-2 were detected by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) among the blood parasites of the inhabitants. Most infections contained mixtures of genetically distinct parasite clones. PCR was then used to examine individual P. falciparum oocysts, the products of fertilization events, in wild-caught mosquitoes. Forty-five out of 71 oocysts were heterozygous for one or both genes, showing that crossing between clones was taking place frequently, following uptake of mixtures of gametocytes by the mosquitoes. The frequency of heterozygous forms showed that random mating events probably occurred within mosquito bloodmeals between gametes belonging to different parasite clones.

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