N.B. Henry et al., PLOS One, 2023
Antimalarial drugs that can block the transmission of Plasmodium gametocytes to mosquito vectors would be highly beneficial for malaria elimination efforts. Identifying transmission-blocking drugs currently relies on evaluation of their activity against gametocyte-producing laboratory parasite strains and would benefit from a testing pipeline with genetically diverse field isolates. The aims of this study were to develop a pipeline to test drugs against P. falciparum gametocyte field isolates and to evaluate the transmission-blocking activity of a set of novel compounds. Two assays were designed so they could identify both the overall transmission-blocking activity of a number of marketed and experimental drugs by direct membrane feeding assays (DMFA), and then also discriminate between those that are active against the gametocytes (gametocyte killing or sterilizing) or those that block development in the mosquito (sporontocidal). These DMFA assays used venous blood samples from naturally infected Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte carriers and locally reared Anopheles gambiae s.s. mosquitoes. Overall transmission-blocking activity was assessed following a 24 hour incubation of compound with gametocyte infected blood (TB-DMFA). Sporontocidal activity was evaluated following addition of compound directly prior to feeding, without incubation (SPORO-DMFA); Gametocyte viability was retained during 24-hour incubation at 37°C when gametocyte infected red blood cells were reconstituted in RPMI/serum. Methylene-blue, MMV693183, DDD107498, atovaquone and P218 showed potent transmission-blocking activity in the TB-DMFA, and both atovaquone and the novel antifolate P218 were potent inhibitors of sporogonic development in the SPORO-DMA. This work establishes a pipeline for the integral use of field isolates to assess the transmission-blocking capacity of antimalarial drugs to block transmission that should be validated in future studies.