Measuring Plasmodium falciparum Erythrocyte Invasion Phenotypes Using Flow Cytometry

Methods Mol Biol. 2015:1325:167-86. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-2815-6_14.


Having the ability to rapidly, accurately, and robustly measure Plasmodium falciparum merozoite invasion is a critical component in effective assessment of a blood stage vaccine's mechanism of action. Being able to measure invasion of erythrocytes accurately, objectively and in a high throughput fashion is of critical importance. Here, we describe a simple and robust flow cytometry method that allows for the measurement of the key invasion parameters of parasite multiplication rate and erythrocyte selectivity-both important determinants of disease severity-from the schizont to the ring stage of the parasite's life-cycle, thus separating invasion from growth of the parasite. Importantly, this method is able to accurately detect low levels of parasitemia and heterogeneity within the population that can be missed by enzymatic methods. Lastly, this method has been successfully adapted and employed in field based research settings for parasitemia measurements in vivo, ex vivo, and in vitro and to measure invasion inhibition by antibodies and the use of alternative pathways for invasion.

Keywords: Blood-stage vaccine; Erythrocyte invasion; Flow cytometry; Malaria; Merozoite; Neutralizing antibodies; Plasmodium.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / immunology
  • Erythrocytes / immunology
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / blood
  • Malaria, Falciparum / immunology*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / parasitology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / pathogenicity
  • Schizonts / immunology


  • Antibodies, Protozoan