The plasticity of Plasmodium falciparum gametocytaemia in relation to age in Burkina Faso

AL Ouedraogo, T Bousema, Sake de Vlas, N Cuzin-Ouattara, JP Verhave, C Drakeley, AJF Luty, R Sauerwein

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Background: Malaria transmission depends on the presence of gametocytes in the peripheral blood. In this study, the age-dependency of gametocytaemia was examined by microscopy and molecular tools. Methods: A total of 5,383 blood samples from individuals of all ages were collected over six cross sectional surveys in Burkina Faso. One cross-sectional study used quantitative nucleic acid sequence based amplification (QT-NASBA) for parasite quantification (n = 412). The proportion of infections with concurrent gametocytaemia and median proportion of gametocytes among all parasites were calculated. Results: Asexual parasite prevalence and gametocyte prevalence decreased with age. Gametocytes made up 1.8% of the total parasite population detected by microscopy in the youngest age group. This proportion gradually increased to 18.2% in adults (p < 0.001). Similarly, gametocytes made up 0.2% of the total parasite population detected by QT-NASBA in the youngest age group, increasing to 5.7% in adults (p < 0.001). This age pattern in gametocytaemia was also evident in the proportion of gametocyte positive slides without concomitant asexual parasites which increased from 13.4% (17/127) in children to 45.6% (52/114) in adults (OR 1.55, 95% CI 1.38-1.74, p < 0.001). Conclusions: The findings of this study suggest that although gametocytes are most commonly detected in children, the proportion of asexual parasites that is committed to develop into gametocytes may increase with age. These findings underscore the importance of adults for the human infectious reservoir for malaria.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalMalaria Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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