Skip to main content


Can we stop malaria parasites in the skin?

Article metrics

  • 1326 Accesses


Since the discovery of malaria transmission by mosquitoes, it was assumed that the parasites are injected directly into the blood stream. However, indirect experiments [1] and direct microscopic observations using mice as hosts and fluorescent rodent malaria species showed that the parasites are instead injected into the skin. These Plasmodium sporozoites then migrate rapidly through the dermis and enter blood or lymph vessels [2]. Stopping sporozoite motility also halts infection [3]. We aim at understanding the mechanisms that drive sporozoite motility and identify drug-like compounds that stop parasite locomotion. To this end, we have adapted and developed new methods including a screening pipeline to test small molecules that could interfere with motility and thus stop Plasmodium transmission at the skin stage [4, 5].

Materials and methods

A screening pipeline was developed that allowed medium-throughput assessment of small molecules as possible inhibitors of sporozoite motility in vitro. This was followed by in vivo testing during transmission from mosquito to mouse.


We tested over 200 compounds selected from a library of drugs approved by the Federal Drug Administration for their potential to interfere with motility. We identified two molecules that inhibited in vitro motility in the nano-molar range. When these two compounds were tested during the transmission by mosquitoes, an ectopically applied drug resulted in a decrease of transmission efficiency while an orally given drug showed no effect on transmission at non-toxic doses.


  1. 1.

    Sidjanski SP, Vanderberg JP: Delayed migration of Plasmodium sporozoites from the mosquito bite site to the blood. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1997, 57: 426-429.

  2. 2.

    Amino R, Thiberge S, Martin B, Celli S, Shorte S, Frischknecht F, Ménard R: Quantitative imaging of Plasmodium transmission from mosquito to mammal. Nat Med. 2006, 12: 220-224. 10.1038/nm1350.

  3. 3.

    Kebaier C, Voza T, Vanderberg J: Kinetics of mosquito-injected Plasmodium sporozoites in mice: fewer sporozoites are injected into sporozoite-immunized mice. PLoS Pathog. 2009, 5: e1000399-10.1371/journal.ppat.1000399.

  4. 4.

    Hegge S, Kudryashev M, Smith A, Frischknecht F: Automated classification of Plasmodium sporozoite movement patterns reveals a shift towards productive motility during salivary gland infection. Biotechnol J. 2009, 4: 903-913. 10.1002/biot.200900007.

  5. 5.

    Hegge S, Münter S, Steinbüchel M, Heiss K, Engel U, Matuschewski K, Frischknecht F: Multistep adhesion of Plasmodium sporozoites. FASEB J. 2010, 24: 2222-2234. 10.1096/fj.09-148700.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Friedrich Frischknecht.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Douglas, R., Ester, M., Hellmann, J. et al. Can we stop malaria parasites in the skin?. Malar J 13, O7 (2014) doi:10.1186/1475-2875-13-S1-O7

Download citation


  • Malaria
  • Small Molecule
  • Plasmodium
  • Microscopic Observation
  • Lymph Vessel


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate. Please note that comments may be removed without notice if they are flagged by another user or do not comply with our community guidelines.