noun, plural: merozoites
A cell formed during the asexual division of the schizont; a stage in the life cycle of certain Apicomplexans producing such cells
Apicomplexa is a phylum comprised of protozoans characterized by having a special organelle called an apical complex, and most of them are single-celled, parasitic, and spore-forming. They are intracellular parasites. Their life cycle is comprised of stages where each has a particular cellular variety. Nevertheless, not all members have all the various life stages. An example is the Plasmodium species causing malaria in humans. Plasmodium species use two hosts (human and Anopheles mosquito) to complete its complex life cycle. In human host, the sporozoites injected by the mosquito during a blood meal are circulated by the bloodstream. When they reach the liver cells of the human host they transform into a trophozoite, losing its apical complex and surface coat. They particularly invade the vacuole of the hepatocyte where they will go through schizogonic development. Their nucleus will undergo multiple divisions while their cell size increases. They develop and differentiate into merozoites. These merozoites are released from the hepatocytes and enter the bloodstream. They, then, invade the red blood cells to initiate the erythrocytic stage. Merozoites at this point have their apical coplex, pellicle and surface coat for use in invading red blood cell. In the erythrocytic stage, the merozoites may give rise to either trophozoites or gametocytes.
Word origin: Greek meros (part of a series)+ zoon (animal)