The silent path to thousands of merozoites: the Plasmodium liver stage

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2006 Nov;4(11):849-56. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1529.


Plasmodium sporozoites are deposited in the skin of their vertebrate hosts through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Most of these parasites find a blood vessel and travel in the peripheral blood circulation until they reach the liver sinusoids. Once there, the sporozoites cross the sinusoidal wall and migrate through several hepatocytes before they infect a final hepatocyte, with the formation of a parasitophorous vacuole, in which the intrahepatic form of the parasite grows and multiplies. During this period, each sporozoite generates thousands of merozoites. As the development of Plasmodium sporozoites inside hepatocytes is an obligatory step before the onset of disease, understanding the parasite's requirements during this period is crucial for the development of any form of early intervention. This Review summarizes our current knowledge on this stage of the Plasmodium life cycle.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Liver / parasitology*
  • Plasmodium / physiology*
  • Sporozoites / physiology