The population dynamics of Plasmodium sporogony within mosquitoes consists of an early phase where parasite abundance decreases during the transition from gametocyte to oocyst, an intermediate phase where parasite abundance remains static as oocysts, and a later phase where parasite abundance increases during the release of progeny sporozoites from oocysts. Sporogonic development is complete when sporozoites invade the mosquito salivary glands. The dynamics and efficiency of this developmental sequence were determined in laboratory strains of Anopheles dirus, Anopheles minimus and Anopheles sawadwongporni mosquitoes for Plasmodium vivax parasites circulating naturally in western Thailand.
Mosquitoes were fed blood from 20 symptomatic Thai adults via membrane feeders. Absolute densities were estimated for macrogametocytes, round stages (= female gametes/zygotes), ookinetes, oocysts, haemolymph sporozoites and salivary gland sporozoites. From these census data, five aspects of population dynamics were analysed; 1) changes in life-stage prevalence during early sporogony, 2) kinetics of life-stage formation, 3) efficiency of life-stage transitions, 4) density relationships between successive life-stages, and 5) parasite aggregation patterns.
There was no difference among the three mosquito species tested in total losses incurred by P. vivax populations during early sporogony. Averaged across all infections, parasite populations incurred a 68-fold loss in abundance, with losses of ca. 19-fold, 2-fold and 2-fold at the first (= gametogenesis/fertilization), second (= round stage transformation), and third (= ookinete migration) life-stage transitions, respectively. However, total losses varied widely among infections, ranging from 6-fold to over 2,000-fold loss. Losses during gametogenesis/fertilization accounted for most of this variability, indicating that gametocytes originating from some volunteers were more fertile than those from other volunteers. Although reasons for such variability were not determined, gametocyte fertility was not correlated with blood haematocrit, asexual parasitaemia, gametocyte density or gametocyte sex ratio. Round stages and ookinetes were present in mosquito midguts for up to 48 hours and development was asynchronous. Parasite losses during fertilization and round stage differentiation were more influenced by factors intrinsic to the parasite and/or factors in the blood, whereas ookinete losses were more strongly influenced by mosquito factors. Oocysts released sporozoites on days 12 to 14, but even by day 22 many oocysts were still present on the midgut. The per capita production was estimated to be approximately 500 sporozoites per oocyst and approximately 75% of the sporozoites released into the haemocoel successfully invaded the salivary glands.
The major developmental bottleneck in early sporogony occurred during the transition from macrogametocyte to round stage. Sporozoite invasion into the salivary glands was very efficient. Information on the natural population dynamics of sporogony within malaria-endemic areas may benefit intervention strategies that target early sporogony (e.g., transmission blocking vaccines, transgenic mosquitoes).