Microsatellite analysis reveals connectivity among geographically distant transmission zones of Plasmodium vivax in the Peruvian Amazon


Despite efforts made over decades by the Peruvian government to eliminate malaria, Plas- modium vivax remains a challenge for public health decision-makers in the country. The uneven distribution of its incidence, plus its complex pattern of dispersion, has made ineffec- tive control measures based on global information that lack the necessary detail to under- stand transmission fully. In this sense, population genetic tools can complement current surveillance. This study describes the genetic diversity and population structure from Sep- tember 2012 to March 2015 in three geographically distant settlements, Cahuide (CAH), Lupuna (LUP) and Santa Emilia (STE), located in the Peruvian Amazon. A total 777 P. vivax mono-infections, out of 3264, were genotyped. Among study areas, LUP showed 19.7% of polyclonal infections, and its genetic diversity (Hexp) was 0.544. Temporal analysis showed a significant increment of polyclonal infections and Hexp, and the introduction and persis- tence of a new parasite population since March 2013. In STE, 40.1% of infections were poly- clonal, with Hexp = 0.596. The presence of four genetic clusters without signals of clonal expansion and infections with lower parasite densities compared against the other two areas were also found. At least four parasite populations were present in CAH in 2012, where, after June 2014, malaria cases decreased from 213 to 61, concomitant with a decrease in polyclonal infections (from 0.286 to 0.18), and expectedly variable Hexp. Strong signals of gene flow were present in the study areas and wide geographic distribution of highly diverse parasite populations were found. This study suggests that movement of malaria parasites by human reservoirs connects geographically distant malaria transmission areas in the Peruvian Amazon. The maintenance of high levels of parasite genetic diversity through human mobility is a critical barrier to malaria elimination in this region.

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Gabriel Carrasco-Escobar
Gabriel Carrasco-Escobar
Assistant Professor

My research interests include infectious diseases epidemiology, causal inference, global health, Climate Change, Data Science, Urban Health, and Geospatial modeling & viz.