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Sex ratios in the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium chabaudi

  • S. E. REECE (a1), A. B. DUNCAN (a1), S. A. WEST (a1) and A. F. READ (a1)

The sex ratios of malaria and related Apicomplexan parasites play a major role in transmission success. Here, we address 2 fundamental issues in the sex ratios of the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium chabaudi. First we test the accuracy of empirical methods for estimating sex ratios in malaria parasites, and show that sex ratios made with standard thin smears may overestimate the proportion of female gametocytes. Secondly, we test whether the mortality rate differs between male and female gametocytes, as assumed by sex ratio theory. Conventional application of sex ratio theory to malaria parasites assumes that the primary sex ratio can be accurately determined from mature gametocytes circulating in the peripheral circulation. We stopped gametocyte production with chloroquine in order to study a cohort of gametocytes in vitro. The mortality rate was significantly higher for female gametocytes, with an average half-life of 8 h for female gametocytes and 16 h for male gametocytes.

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