Gametocytes are sexual precursor cells of the malaria parasite that mediate the transmission of the parasite from its mammalian host to the Anopheles mosquito. Unlike the asexual blood stages, which are responsible for the clinical outcome of malaria, gametocytes cause no clinical manifestations. However, they are very crucial for the transmission of the disease thus represent key targets for transmission-blocking interventions. Despite their essential role in malaria transmission, only in the last decade gametocytes became a hot topic of research and their biology is not well understood. This chapter provides a detailed review on the biology of the human malaria gametocytes with emphasis on aspects such as gametocyte commitment, gametocyte maturation (gametocytogenesis), gametocyte metabolism and gametogenesis. Proper understanding of these processes will deepen our knowledge on the gametocyte biology and therefore open up more avenues for the development of malaria transmission-blocking intervention strategies.
Part of the book: Current Topics in Malaria