Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

Increased investment in gametocytes in asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum infections in the wet season



Transmission stemming from asymptomatic infections is increasingly being recognized as a threat to malaria elimination. In many regions, malaria transmission is seasonal. It is not well understood whether Plasmodium falciparum modulates its investment in transmission to coincide with seasonal vector abundance.


We sampled 1116 asymptomatic individuals in the wet season, when vectors are abundant, and 1743 in the dry season, in two sites in western Kenya, representing different transmission intensities (Chulaimbo, moderate transmission, and Homa Bay, low transmission). Blood samples were screened for P. falciparum by qPCR, and gametocytes by pfs25 RT-qPCR.


Parasite prevalence by qPCR was 27.1% (Chulaimbo, dry), 48.2% (Chulaimbo, wet), 9.4% (Homabay, dry), and 7.8% (Homabay, wet). Mean parasite densities did not differ between seasons (P = 0.562). pfs25 transcripts were detected in 119/456 (26.1%) of infections. In the wet season, fewer infections harbored detectable gametocytes (22.3% vs. 33.8%, P = 0.009), but densities were 3-fold higher (wet: 3.46 transcripts/uL, dry: 1.05 transcripts/uL, P < 0.001). In the dry season, 4.0% of infections carried gametocytes at moderate-to-high densities likely infective (> 1 gametocyte per 2 uL blood), compared to 7.9% in the wet season. Children aged 5-15 years harbored 76.7% of infections with gametocytes at moderate-to-high densities.


Parasites increase their investment in transmission in the wet season, reflected by higher gametocyte densities. Despite increased gametocyte densities, parasite density remained similar across seasons and were often below the limit of detection of microscopy or rapid diagnostic test, thus a large proportion of infective infections would escape population screening in the wet season. Seasonal changes of gametocytemia in asymptomatic infections need to be considered when designing malaria control measures.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View