Ookinete Rates in Afrotropical Anopheline Mosquitoes as a Measure of Human Malaria Infectiousness

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  • Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, The Johns Hopkins University, Kenya Medical Research Institute and US Army Medical Research Unit, Baltimore, Maryland, Kenya

Anopheles gambiae s.l. and An. funestus were sampled for Plasmodium spp. ookinetes in two P. falciparum-endemic sites in western Kenya. Since the ookinete is a transitional stage of short duration, occurring after fertilization and before oocyst development, only females in the half-gravid and gravid stages of blood digestion were examined. Preparations of homogenized midguts were spotted onto microslides and examined microscopically after staining with Giemsa. Overall, ookinetes were detected in 4.4% of 1,079 anophelines examined over an eight-month period. Anopheles funestus had higher ookinete rates than An. gambiae s.l., and ookinete rates were higher in half-gravid than in gravid An. gambiae s.l. Geometric mean numbers of ookinetes per infected female were less than five for each species at the two sites, and the maximum number observed was only 12. The low frequencies and numbers of ookinetes were sufficient to produce sporozoite rates of 4–18% in the vector populations. The intense transmission of P. falciparum in these two sites is maintained by anthropophilic vectors where only one in 23 blood meals initiates an infection of generally less than five ookinetes. Relationships between human malaria infectiousness and vector infectivity are dependent upon the high efficiency of the developmental transition from the ookinete to the subsequent oocyst and sporozoite stages.