BackgroundPlasmodium 18S rRNA is a biomarker used to monitor blood-stage infections in malaria clinical trials. Plasmodium sporozoites also express this biomarker, and there is conflicting evidence about how long sporozoite-derived 18S rRNA persists in peripheral blood. If present in blood for an extended timeframe, sporozoite-derived 18S rRNA could complicate use as a blood-stage biomarker.MethodsBlood samples from Plasmodium yoelii infected mice were tested for Plasmodium 18S rRNA and their coding genes (rDNA) using sensitive quantitative reverse transcription PCR and quantitative PCR assays, respectively. Blood and tissues from Plasmodium falciparum sporozoite (PfSPZ)-infected rhesus macaques were similarly tested.ResultsIn mice, when P. yoelii sporozoite inoculation and blood collection were performed at the same site (tail vein), low level rDNA positivity persisted for 2 days post-infection. Compared to intact parasites with high rRNA-to-rDNA ratios, this low level positivity was accompanied by no increase in rRNA-to-rDNA, indicating detection of residual, non-viable parasite rDNA. When P. yoelii sporozoites were administered via the retro-orbital vein and blood sampled by cardiac puncture, neither P. yoelii 18S rRNA nor rDNA were detected 24 h post-infection. Similarly, there was no P. falciparum 18S rRNA detected in blood of rhesus macaques 3 days after intravenous injection with extremely high doses of PfSPZ. Plasmodium 18S rRNA in the rhesus livers increased by approximately 101-fold from 3 to 6 days post infection, indicating liver-stage proliferation.ConclusionsBeyond the first few hours after injection, sporozoite-derived Plasmodium 18S rRNA was not detected in peripheral blood. Diagnostics based on 18S rRNA are unlikely to be confounded by sporozoite inocula in human clinical trials.