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Dr Andrea Ruecker

Dr Andrea Ruecker

Podcast interview

Blocking malaria transmission

In the falciparum malaria parasite cycle, the gametocyte stages are responsible for the transmission from person to mosquito, then to other persons. A better understanding of how gametocytes respond to malaria treatments would help us block transmission and ultimately eliminate malaria.

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Andrea Ruecker

PhD, MSc, BSc

Senior Postdoctoral Researcher

Blocking malaria transmission

Malaria blocking

Dr Andrea Ruecker's main research focuses on the impact of malaria drug resistance on P. falciparum transmission blocking interventions within the human host. 

  • Effect of malaria drug resistance on the transmission blocking activity of 8-aminoquinolines
  • Investigation into the impact of malaria drug resistance on the onward transmissibility of gametocytes in vitro and in malaria patients
  • Development of a novel translational toolkit to assess the gametocytocidal and gametocidal impact of antimalarials in malaria patients

It is the mature male and female gametocyte which is solely responsible for malaria transmission via the mosquito vector. In Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of the most severe form of malaria, the maturation of gametocytes takes ~10-12 days in the human host before the uptake by the mosquito and onward development. Most current antimalarials have no effect on mature P. falciparum gametocytes. Thus malaria patients receiving treatment may continue to carry infectious gametocytes until they eventually disappear from the host’s circulation. Blocking P. falciparum transmission is crucial for malaria elimination. Antimalarials additionally or solely targeting gametocytes, particularly the mature stages, are urgently required.

It has recently been appreciated that the complex cell biology and the sexual dimorphism of P. falciparum gametocytes requires further attention, particularly when assessing the potential impact of antimalarial interventions in clinical trials. In vitro mature male gametocytes are more drug sensitive than mature female gametocytes, yet females comprise ~80% of the gametocyte population in the human host. New tools are necessary to incorporate read-outs for both male and female gametocytes to accurately assess the impact on gametocytes of antimalarial interventions in malaria patients.

P. falciparum gametocytes

IFA of P. falciparum mature stage V male (left; green and red) and female (top right; green) gametocytes. A stage IV gametocyte can be observed in the centre of the image.