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Cahiers d'études et de recherches francophones / Santé

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Effects of the antimalarial drugs ferroquine and artesunate on Plasmodium yoelii yoelii gametocytegenesis and vectorial transmission Volume 21, issue 3, Juil-Août-Sept

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Authors
Faculté de médecine de Tours, service de parasitologie-mycologie-médecine tropicale, 10, boulevard Tonnellé, 37032 Tours Cedex, France, Laboratoire de parasitologie comparée, Muséum national d’histoire naturelle de Paris 61 rue Buffon 75231 Paris Cedex 05, Laboratoire de Parasitologie-Mycologie-Médecine Tropicale CHU Bretonneau 2 boulevard Tonnellé 37044 Tours Cedex 9

Chemistry still has a role in the management of malaria, alongside the mosquito netting soaked in insecticide that is used increasingly, as we continue to await the long anticipated vaccine. During its cycle, the hematozoon parasite develops through three major periods. The first, malarial infection, corresponds to the intrahepatic development of infective forms from the mosquito vector; this period is not sensitive to treatment and is often asymptomatic. The period of erythrocytic schizogony is the most urgent, and treatment activity is primordial. Finally, the phase of sexual reproduction, when gametocytes develop within the erythrocytes ensures the perpetuation of the species when these reach the blood-feeding female anopheles mosquitoes. The aim of our work was to study the effect on gametocytes of drugs known to be effective on the asexual blood forms of the protozoan and thus the potential repercussions on malaria transmission. This experimental study was conducted with an animal model whose parasite cycle and modes of transmission are close to those of human malaria: Plasmodium yoelii, maintained on Swiss mice, with the Anopheles stephensi vector (maintained in an animal facility at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris). Two drugs were tested: ferroquine (a chloroquine derivative with a ferrocene molecule at the lateral carbon chain that restores its efficacy against chloroquine-resistant strains) and artesunate (a derivative of artemisinin, from ginghao, a Chinese plant also known as artemisia annua, or sweet wormwood), a treatment of choice in the combined therapies recommended by WHO. The efficacy of these drugs, prescribed at doses subcurative for the asexual forms, were tested against gametocyte production, quantitatively by counting them in the blood and qualitatively by counting the quantity of oocysts developed on the mosquito's midgut, which are indicators of gametocyte activity. The mice that were parasite-infected and then treated served as their own controls: lots of 30 mosquitoes fed on each mouse before treatment and then 90 minutes and 5 hours after treatment. Quantitatively, the comparison of the blood parasite level and the gametocyte index shows that treated mice had a higher level of circulating gametocytes than untreated parasite infested mice, regardless of drug or dose (5 or 10 mg/kg). For artesunate at 5 mg/kg, we noted that the blood gametocyte level was almost double that of the controls. On the other hand, qualitatively, the first results obtained with optical and electronic microscopy showed morphologic alterations of the circulating gametocytes (pigment clumping and lateralisation within red blood cells) and reduced infectivity of the gametocytes for the mosquitoes that fed at 1 and 5 hours after treatment. We were able to demonstrate statistically that the infectivity of gametocytes, measured by the quantity of oocysts counted in the mosquito midgut, was reduced by 70% for those treated with ferroquine and by 85% for those from mice treated by artesunate. Complementary studies will seek to specify the populations (age) of gametocytes damaged by treatment and the importance and nature of their morphologic alterations.