Optimization of Plasmodium vivax sporozoite production from Anopheles stephensi in South West India

Malar J. 2021 May 18;20(1):221. doi: 10.1186/s12936-021-03767-2.


Background: Efforts to study the biology of Plasmodium vivax liver stages, particularly the latent hypnozoites, have been hampered by the limited availability of P. vivax sporozoites. Anopheles stephensi is a major urban malaria vector in Goa and elsewhere in South Asia. Using P. vivax patient blood samples, a series of standard membrane-feeding experiments were performed with An. stephensi under the US NIH International Center of Excellence for Malaria Research (ICEMR) for Malaria Evolution in South Asia (MESA). The goal was to understand the dynamics of parasite development in mosquitoes as well as the production of P. vivax sporozoites. To obtain a robust supply of P. vivax sporozoites, mosquito-rearing and mosquito membrane-feeding techniques were optimized, which are described here.

Methods: Membrane-feeding experiments were conducted using both wild and laboratory-colonized An. stephensi mosquitoes and patient-derived P. vivax collected at the Goa Medical College and Hospital. Parasite development to midgut oocysts and salivary gland sporozoites was assessed on days 7 and 14 post-feeding, respectively. The optimal conditions for mosquito rearing and feeding were evaluated to produce high-quality mosquitoes and to yield a high sporozoite rate, respectively.

Results: Laboratory-colonized mosquitoes could be starved for a shorter time before successful blood feeding compared with wild-caught mosquitoes. Optimizing the mosquito-rearing methods significantly increased mosquito survival. For mosquito feeding, replacing patient plasma with naïve serum increased sporozoite production > two-fold. With these changes, the sporozoite infection rate was high (> 85%) and resulted in an average of ~ 22,000 sporozoites per mosquito. Some mosquitoes reached up to 73,000 sporozoites. Sporozoite production could not be predicted from gametocyte density but could be predicted by measuring oocyst infection and oocyst load.

Conclusions: Optimized conditions for the production of high-quality P. vivax sporozoite-infected An. stephensi were established at a field site in South West India. This report describes techniques for producing a ready resource of P. vivax sporozoites. The improved protocols can help in future research on the biology of P. vivax liver stages, including hypnozoites, in India, as well as the development of anti-relapse interventions for vivax malaria.

Keywords: Anopheles stephensi; Insectary; Membrane-feeding assays; Plasmodium vivax; Sporozoite.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / parasitology*
  • Female
  • India
  • Mosquito Vectors / parasitology*
  • Plasmodium vivax / growth & development
  • Plasmodium vivax / physiology*
  • Sporozoites / growth & development
  • Sporozoites / physiology