Development and application of a simple plaque assay for the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum

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Malaria is caused by an obligate intracellular protozoan parasite that replicates within and destroys erythrocytes. Asexual blood stages of the causative agent of the most virulent form of human malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, can be cultivated indefinitely in vitro in human erythrocytes, facilitating experimental analysis of parasite cell biology, biochemistry and genetics. However, efforts to improve understanding of the basic biology of this important pathogen and to develop urgently required new antimalarial drugs and vaccines, suffer from a paucity of basic research tools. This includes a simple means of quantifying the effects of drugs, antibodies and gene modifications on parasite fitness and replication rates. Here we describe the development and validation of an extremely simple, robust plaque assay that can be used to visualise parasite replication and resulting host erythrocyte destruction at the level of clonal parasite populations. We demonstrate applications of the plaque assay by using it for the phenotypic characterisation of two P. falciparum conditional mutants displaying reduced fitness in vitro.

Journal details

Journal PLOS ONE
Volume 11
Issue number 6
Pages e0157873
Available online
Publication date