Stress and sex in malaria parasites: Why does commitment vary?

TitleStress and sex in malaria parasites: Why does commitment vary?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCarter LM, Kafsack BFC, LlinĂ¡s M, Mideo N, Pollitt LC, Reece SE
JournalEvol Med Public Health
Date Published2013 Jan

For vector-borne parasites such as malaria, how within- and between-host processes interact to shape transmission is poorly understood. In the host, malaria parasites replicate asexually but for transmission to occur, specialized sexual stages (gametocytes) must be produced. Despite the central role that gametocytes play in disease transmission, explanations of why parasites adjust gametocyte production in response to in-host factors remain controversial. We propose that evolutionary theory developed to explain variation in reproductive effort in multicellular organisms, provides a framework to understand gametocyte investment strategies. We examine why parasites adjust investment in gametocytes according to the impact of changing conditions on their in-host survival. We then outline experiments required to determine whether plasticity in gametocyte investment enables parasites to maintain fitness in a variable environment. Gametocytes are a target for anti-malarial transmission-blocking interventions so understanding plasticity in investment is central to maximizing the success of control measures in the face of parasite evolution.

Alternate JournalEvol Med Public Health
PubMed ID24481194
PubMed Central IDPMC3854026
Grant ListDP2 OD001315 / OD / NIH HHS / United States
R01 AI076276 / AI / NIAID NIH HHS / United States

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