Background: Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes are essential for malaria transmission. Malaria control measures that aim at reducing transmission require an accurate characterization of the human infectious reservoir.
Methods: We longitudinally determined human infectiousness to mosquitoes and P. falciparum carriage by an ultrasensitive RNA-based diagnostics in 130 randomly selected inhabitants of an endemic area.
Results: At least 1 mosquito was infected by 32.6% (100 of 307) of the blood samples; in total, 7.6% of mosquitoes (916 of 12 079) were infected. The proportion of infectious individuals and infected mosquitoes were negatively associated with age and positively with asexual parasites (P < .001). Human infectiousness was higher at the start of the wet season and subsequently declined at the peak of the wet season (adjusted odds ratio, 0.52; P = .06) and in the dry season (0.23; P < .001). Overall, microscopy-negative individuals were responsible for 28.7% of infectious individuals (25 of 87) and 17.0% of mosquito infections (145 of 855).
Conclusions: Our study reveals that the infectious reservoir peaks at the start of the wet season, with prominent roles for infections in children and submicroscopic infections. These findings have important consequences for strategies and the timing of interventions, which need to include submicroscopic infections and be implemented in the dry season.
Keywords: Burkina Faso; QT-NASBA; dynamics; falciparum; feeding; gametocyte; malaria; mosquito; reservoir; season.
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