Host cell preference and variable transmission strategies in malaria parasites

Sarah E. Reece, Alison B. Duncan, Stuart A. West, Andrew F. Read

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Malaria and other haemosporin parasites must undergo a round of sexual reproduction in their insect vector in order to produce stages that can be transmitted to vertebrate hosts. Consequently, it is crucial that parasites produce the sex ratio (proportion of male sexual stages) that will maximize the number of fertilizations and thus, transmission to new vertebrate hosts. There is some evidence to show that, consistent with evolutionary theory, the sex ratios of malaria parasites are negatively correlated to their inbreeding rate. However, recent theory has shown that when fertilization success is compromised, parasites should respond by increasing their investment in sexual stages or by producing a less female biased sex ratio than predicted by their inbreeding rate alone. Here, we show that two species of rodent malaria, Plasmodium chabaudi and Plasmodium vinckei petteri, adopt different strategies in response to host anaemia, a factor thought to compromise transmission success: P. chabaudi increases investment in sexual stages, whereas P. vinckei produces a less female biased sex ratio. We suggest that these different transmission strategies may be due to marked species differences in host cell preference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-517
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1562
StatePublished - Mar 7 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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