Methylene blue induced morphological deformations in Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes

Research performed at:

Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Malaria Research, New Delhi, India.

The authors:

Ishan Wadi1 , C. Radhakrishna Pillai, Anupkumar R. Anvikar, Abhinav Sinha, Mahendra Nath, Neena Valecha

Malaria remains a global health problem despite availability of effective tools. For malaria elimination, drugs targeting sexual stages of Plasmodium falciparum need to be incorporated in treatment regimen along with schizonticidal drugs to interrupt transmission. Primaquine is recommended as a transmission blocking drug for its effect on mature gametocytes but is not extensively utilized because of associated safety concerns among glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficient patients.

In present work, methylene blue, which is proposed as an alternative to primaquine is investigated for its gametocytocidal activity amongst Indian field isolates. An effort has been made to establish Indian field isolates of P. falciparum as in vitro model for gametocytocidal drugs screening.

Plasmodium falciparum isolates were adapted to in vitro culture and induced to gametocyte production by hypoxanthine and culture was enriched for gametocyte stages using N-acetyl-glucosamine. Gametocytes were incubated with methylene blue for 48 h and stage specific gametocytocidal activity was evaluated by microscopic examination.

Field isolates that produce gametocytes in high yield in vitro can be identified and used to screen gametocytocidal drugs. These isolates should be used for validation of gametocytocidal hits obtained previously by using lab adapted reference strains. Methylene blue was found to target gametocytes produced from Indian field isolates and is proposed to be used as a gametocytocidal adjunct with artemisinin-based combination therapy. Further exploration of methylene blue in clinical studies amongst Indian population, including G6PD deficient patients, is recommended.