Malaria culture

Jump to: navigation, search

Malaria culture is the method to grow malaria parasites continuously in an in vitro environment. Plasmodium falciparum is currently the only human malaria parasite that has been successfully cultured in vitro. Although attempts for propagation of the parasites outside of humans or animal models reach as far back as 1912,[1] the success of the initial attempts was limited to one or just a few cycles. The first successful continuous culture was established in 1976.[2] Initial hopes that the in vitro culture would lead quickly to the discovery of a vaccine were premature. However, the development of new drugs was greatly facilitated.


Infected human red blood cells are incubated in a culture dish or flask together with a nutrient medium or human plasma. A special feature of the incubation is the special gas mixture of mostly nitrogen (93% nitrogen, 4% carbondioxide, 3% oxygen) allowing the parasites to grow at 37°C in a cell incubator. An alternative to gasing the cultures with the exact gas mixture, is the use of a candlejar. The candlejar is an airtight container in which the cultures and a lit candle are placed. The candle consumes most of the oxygen before suffocating. The number of parasites doubles approximately every 48 hours. The parasitemia can be determined via blood film, to keep it within the wanted limits, the culture can be thinned out with healthy red blood cells.


  1. Bass CC, Johns FM. (1912). "The Cultivation of Malarial Plasmodia (Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium Falciparum) in vitro". J. Exp. Med. 16: 567–79.
  2. Trager W, Jensen JB. (1976). "Human malaria parasites in continuous culture". Science. 193(4254): 673–5. PMID 781840.
This protist-related article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.