Background: Chimeric mice with humanized livers represent a promising tool for infections with Plasmodium falciparum to evaluate novel methods for prevention and treatment of pre-erythrocytic stages. Adequate assessment of hepatic infections is generally compromised by the limited number of human hepatocytes infected by developing parasites.
Methods: A qPCR-based method has been developed that sensitively and reliably detects P. falciparum liver stage infection of humanized mice and quantitatively expresses the results as the number of parasites per human hepatocyte.
Results: This assay allows for detection of liver stage parasites after challenging humanized mice with infected mosquito bites or after intravenous injection with sporozoites. The sensitivity of the protocol, which comprises approximately 25% of the total chimeric liver, allows for the detection of a single infected hepatocyte in the analysed tissue.
Conclusions: This method allows for the detection and quantification of P. falciparum parasites in chimeric mice repopulated with human hepatocytes. It will be a useful tool when studying the in vivo therapeutic and/or prophylactic qualities of novel compounds, small molecules or antibodies directed against the liver stage of P. falciparum infections.