Modeling malaria development in mosquitoes: How fast can mosquitoes pass on infection?

Mathematical Biology Seminar
Wednesday, February 26, 2020 - 11:00am for 1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Skiles 006
Lauren Childs – Virginia Tech –
Daniel Cruz

The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum requires a vertebrate host, such as a human, and a vector host, the Anopheles mosquito, to complete a full life cycle. The portion of the life cycle in the mosquito harbors both the only time of sexual reproduction, expanding genetic complexity, and the most severe bottlenecks experienced, restricting genetic diversity, across the entire parasite life cycle. In previous work, we developed a two-stage stochastic model of parasite diversity within a mosquito, and demonstrated the importance of heterogeneity amongst parasite dynamics across a population of mosquitoes. Here, we focus on the parasite dynamics component to evaluate the first appearance of sporozoites, which is key for determining the time at which mosquitoes first become infectious. We use Bayesian inference techniques with simple models of within-mosquito parasite dynamics coupled with experimental data to estimate a posterior distribution of parameters. We determine that growth rate and the bursting function are key to the timing of first infectiousness, a key epidemiological parameter.