PerspectiveMicrobiology

Quantifying Malaria Dynamics Within the Host

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Science  19 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6045, pp. 943-944
DOI: 10.1126/science.1210775

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Summary

Generations of malariologists have been intrigued by the mechanisms that control the number of malaria parasites living in the bloodstream (i.e., the extent of parasitemia) in an infected human host. Past studies have shown that parasite numbers rise and fall during infection (see the figure) (1) and that parasitemia is regulated by an array of forces, including human immune defenses, interactions among the parasites themselves, and the availability of resources, such as the red blood cells that the parasites invade. On page 984 of this issue, Metcalf et al. (2) take an important step toward better understanding of these controls. Drawing on data from mice, they present a new statistical approach to analyzing how parasitemia changes over time and to quantifying and comparing the roles played by the immune system and the availability of red blood cells in regulating parasite numbers.