Background: In global efforts to track mosquito infectivity and parasite elimination, controlled mosquito-feeding experiments can help in understanding the dynamics of parasite development in vectors. Anopheles stephensi is often accepted as the major urban malaria vector that transmits Plasmodium in Goa and elsewhere in South Asia. However, much needs to be learned about the interactions of Plasmodium vivax with An. stephensi. As a component of the US NIH International Center of Excellence for Malaria Research (ICEMR) for Malaria Evolution in South Asia (MESA), a series of membrane-feeding experiments with wild An. stephensi and P. vivax were carried out to better understand this vector-parasite interaction.
Methods: Wild An. stephensi larvae and pupae were collected from curing water in construction sites in the city of Ponda, Goa, India. The larvae and pupae were reared at the MESA ICEMR insectary within the National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR) field unit in Goa until they emerged into adult mosquitoes. Blood for membrane-feeding experiments was obtained from malaria patients at the local Goa Medical College and Hospital who volunteered for the study. Parasites were counted by Miller reticule technique and correlation between gametocytaemia/parasitaemia and successful mosquito infection was studied.
Results: A weak but significant correlation was found between patient blood gametocytaemia/parasitaemia and mosquito oocyst load. No correlation was observed between gametocytaemia/parasitaemia and oocyst infection rates, and between gametocyte sex ratio and oocyst load. When it came to development of the parasite in the mosquito, a strong positive correlation was observed between oocyst midgut levels and sporozoite infection rates, and between oocyst levels and salivary gland sporozoite loads. Kinetic studies showed that sporozoites appeared in the salivary gland as early as day 7, post-infection.
Conclusions: This is the first study in India to carry out membrane-feeding experiments with wild An. stephensi and P. vivax. A wide range of mosquito infection loads and infection rates were observed, pointing to a strong interplay between parasite, vector and human factors. Most of the present observations are in agreement with feeding experiments conducted with P. vivax elsewhere in the world.
Keywords: Anopheles stephensi; Goa; Infection rate; MESA-ICEMR; Oocysts; Plasmodium vivax; Sporozoites; Vector infection.