Malaria is initiated when the mosquito introduces sporozoites into the skin of a mammalian host. To successfully continue the infection, sporozoites must invade blood vessels in the dermis and be transported to the liver. A significant number of sporozoites, however, may enter lymphatic vessels in the skin or remain in the skin long after the mosquito bite. We have used fluorescence microscopy of Plasmodium berghei sporozoites expressing a fluorescent protein to evaluate the kinetics of sporozoite disappearance from the skin. Sporozoites injected into immunized mice were rapidly immobilized, did not appear to invade dermal blood vessels and became morphologically degraded within several hours. Strikingly, mosquitoes introduced significantly fewer sporozoites into immunized than into non-immunized mice, presumably by formation of an immune complex between soluble sporozoite antigens in the mosquito saliva and homologous host antibodies at the proboscis tip. These results indicate that protective antibodies directed against sporozoites may function both by reducing the numbers of sporozoites injected into immunized hosts and by inhibiting the movement of injected sporozoites into dermal blood vessels
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