Cryptic Plasmodium chronic infections: was Maurizio Ascoli right?

Malar J. 2020 Nov 30;19(1):440. doi: 10.1186/s12936-020-03516-x.


Cryptic Plasmodium niches outside the liver possibly represent a major source of hypnozoite-unrelated recrudescences in malaria. Maurizio Ascoli, an Italian physician and scientist, suggested that infection was maintained as a result of the persistence of endoerythrocytic parasites in the circulatory bed of some internal organs, mainly the spleen. This would explain a proportion of the recurrences in patients, regardless of the Plasmodium species. Ascoli proposed a method that included the co-administration of adrenaline, in order to induce splenic contraction, and quinine to clear expelled forms in major vessels. Driven by controversy regarding safety and effectiveness, along with the introduction of new drugs, the Ascoli method was abandoned and mostly forgotten by the malaria research community. To date, however, the existence of cryptic parasites outside the liver is gaining supportive data. This work is a historical retrospective of cryptic malaria infections and the Ascoli method, highlighting key knowledge gaps regarding these possible parasite reservoirs.

Keywords: Ascoli‘s method; Cryptic infection; Parasite recurrence; Plasmodium; Spleen.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antimalarials / administration & dosage*
  • Asymptomatic Infections*
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control
  • Epinephrine / administration & dosage*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Malaria / prevention & control*
  • Quinine / administration & dosage*
  • Spleen / drug effects*


  • Antimalarials
  • Quinine
  • Epinephrine

Personal name as subject

  • Maurizio Ascoli