Impact of genetic complexity on longevity and gametocytogenesis of Plasmodium falciparum during the dry and transmission-free season of eastern Sudan

Elkhansaa Nassir, Abdel Muhsin A Abdel-Muhsin, Suad Suliaman, Fiona Kenyon, Amani Kheir, Haider Geha, Heather M. Ferguson, David Walliker, Hamza A. Babiker

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Malaria in eastern Sudan is characterised by limited seasonal transmission, with the majority of the year remaining transmission-free. Some inhabitants who contract malaria during the transmission season retain long-lasting sub-patent infections, which probably initiate transmission the following year. Here we have monitored Plasmodium falciparum infection prevalence and gametocyte production during the dry season, and examined the impact of parasite genetic multiplicity on infection longevity. A cohort of 38 individuals who were infected with P. falciparum in November 2001 was monitored monthly by microscopy and PCR until December 2002. Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction of the pfg377 gene was used to detect sub-patent gametocytes. In addition, all isolates were examined for msp-2 alleles and the mean number of parasite clones per infection was estimated. We found that a large proportion (40%) of the cohort retained gametocytes throughout the dry season. The majority of patients retained asexual infection for at least 7 months. Genetic multiplicity of P. falciparum significantly influenced longevity of asexual infection and its gametocyte production. Gametocytes from mixed genotype P. falciparum infections persisted three times longer than those from single genotype infections, suggesting that genetic diversity promotes persistence. These findings are discussed in the context of the parasite biology and malaria epidemiology in the study area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-55
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005



  • Gametocytes
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • RT-PCR
  • Seasonal malaria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases

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