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Archived Comments for: Plasmodium vivax: who cares?

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    Miles Markus, University of Witwatersrand

    26 May 2010

    It is stated in the excellent paper by Galinski and Barnwell that the name “hypnozoite” was coined in 1977; and an article by P.C.C. Garnham is cited in this regard. The term is, indeed, currently attributed to Garnham in the literature on parasitology and tropical medicine. However, he commented as follows in a letter to me: “I am sorry there should be even a misunderstanding on the origin of this word which as you … recognise from my remarks in Protozoology abstracts is clearly due to you.” He added: “… you found a very useful word to describe these stages.” As an historical item, the late Professor Garnham’s letter is due to be published, together with additional new details concerning the origin of the name “hypnozoite” which was, in fact, coined by Markus [1,2].

    An associated matter concerns adoption of the term in relation to malaria, specifically. This happened in advance of the actual discovery of dormant plasmodial liver forms, i.e. before W.A. Krotoski and his co-workers carried out their impressive series of historic experiments (cited by Galinski and Barnwell). In adopting the word “hypnozoite” for malaria, Markus [2] wrote that it would “… describe any dormant sporozoites or dormant sporozoite-like stages in the life cycles of Plasmodium or other Haemosporina.” The paper [2] was based on contributions to two international conferences but has nevertheless been almost completely overlooked because it did not appear in a mainstream journal. Reprints of this 32-year-old publication are available upon request (contact e-mail address: One of the meeting abstracts was published in a British journal [3].

    Lastly, the origin of the term “hypnozoite” can be traced back to non-malarial research that I carried out in the 1970s while a PhD student at Imperial College London. The following little-known, indirect prediction was made at the time [4]: “If sporozoites of Isospora can behave in this fashion, then those of related Sporozoa, like malaria parasites, may have the ability to survive in the tissues in a similar way.”

    REFERENCES: 1. Markus MB: A term for extra-intestinal stages of mammalian Isospora (Protozoa, Coccidia, Eimeriidae). S Afr J Sci 1976, 72:220; 2. Markus MB: Terminology for invasive stages of protozoa of the subphylum Apicomplexa (Sporozoa). S Afr J Sci 1978, 74:105-106; 3. Markus MB: Terms for invasive stages of protozoa of the subphylum Sporozoa (Apicomplexa). Parasitology 1978, 77:vii-viii; 4. Markus MB: Possible support for the sporozoite hypothesis of relapse and latency in malaria. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 1976, 70:535.

    Competing interests

    No competing interests.