Malaria parasites vary in virulence, but the effects of mosquito transmission on virulence phenotypes have not been systematically analysed. Using six lines of malaria parasite that varied widely in virulence, three of which had been serially blood-stage passaged many times, we found that mosquito transmission led to a general reduction in malaria virulence. Despite that, the between-line variation in virulence remained. Forcing serially passaged lines through extreme population bottlenecks (<5 parasites) reduced virulence in only one of two lines. That reduction was to a level intermediate between that of the virulent parental and avirulent ancestral line. Mosquito transmission did not reverse the increased parasite replication rates that had accrued during serial passage, but it did increase rosetting frequencies. Re-setting of asexual stage genes during the sexual stages of the life cycle, coupled with stochastic sampling of parasites with variable virulence during population bottlenecks, could account for the virulence reductions and increased rosetting induced by mosquito transmission.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases