Vector-borne diseases constitute an enormous burden on public health across the world. However, despite the importance of interactions between infectious pathogens and their respective vector for disease transmission, the biology of the pathogen in the insect is often less well understood than the forms that cause human infections. Even with the global impact of Plasmodium parasites, the causative agents of malarial disease, no vaccine exists to prevent infection and resistance to all frontline drugs is emerging. Malaria parasite migration through the mosquito host constitutes a major population bottleneck of the lifecycle and therefore represents a powerful, although as yet relatively untapped, target for therapeutic intervention. The understanding of parasite-mosquito interactions has increased in recent years with developments in genome-wide approaches, genomics and proteomics. Each development has shed significant light on the biology of the malaria parasite during the mosquito phase of the lifecycle. Less well understood, however, is the process of midgut colonisation and oocyst formation, the precursor to parasite re-infection from the next mosquito bite. Here, we review the current understanding of cellular and molecular events underlying midgut colonisation centred on the role of the motile ookinete. Further insight into the major interactions between the parasite and the mosquito will help support the broader goal to identify targets for transmission-blocking therapies against malarial disease.
Copyright © 2012 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.